weekend open thread – October 16-17, 2021

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Husbands, by Chandler Baker. In a neighborhood of high-powered, accomplished women and their extremely supportive, housework-loving husbands, all is not what it seems.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,134 comments… read them below }

  1. Venus*

    How does your garden grow? How are your indoor, outdoor, fuzzy, smooth, green, purple, and other plants?

    1. StellaBella*

      I transplanted to a larger pot my aloe vera, and it sits outside still and gets about 2hrs of full sun each day. I may bring it inside once it gets too cold tho.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I have a black bat plant that, after looking sad for 2 years has finally put up a flower spike! The flower is slowly opening but the spike is drooping… I hope I get to see it in its full glory!

    3. Wrench Turner*

      In the back yard, the persimmon tree still has a lot of beautiful and delicious fruits to go, the two figs have some left if they ever ripen before pruning, maybe next year we’ll get to keep some pears. Out front, the pumpkins are turning gold, amazingly we still have some tomatoes, the brussels sprouts we let stay from last year have gone fascinatingly feral, only the too-spicy-for-me chili peppers survived the season, we have 1 tiny golf ball of an egg plant and some of the flowers are starting to bloom again. Our little yard is tiny but we’re making the most of it.
      I hate grass and lawns, always have, so if I’m going to put in any effort in to yard work it has to be something edible or at the very least pretty flowers. After the renovation we’re systematically demolishing everything for raised beds and native wildflower meadow. We don’t have an HOA (thank gods) and I don’t want to mow ever again.

      1. fposte*

        Ah, so jealous on the persimmon and figs. I have a hardy fig that thrives in zone 5b, but it’s rare for a summer to be long enough to allow it to fruit.

      2. Carol the happy elf*

        Have you seen the book, “Foodscaping”?
        My bestie is a Master Gardener with an “ugly acre”; their city demands a park, but an acre really wants to be a farm. She planted all sorts of Red Russian kale, dinosaur kale, ornamental cabbages, and ornamentals that are really edible. Not just talking nasturtium blossoms in salad, either!
        High desert, like where I live, is a special pain in the….
        She used to teach classes on getting around HOA rules with really beautiful food plants.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        One of our figs has a problem—leaves spotted, then turned yellow, then dropped. My husband thinks its just the season, but last year the big guy had leaves when we brought it in so I’m worried. I’m insisting he use two dormant-season spaces even if it means i give up my newly created recycling area. Feh.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I went to Lowes for another wheelie shelf for winter plants because tonight’s going down to 41°F. I also bought a bag of crocus bulbs and what appeared to be their last 50-count bag of daffodil bulbs.
          I know what I’m doing in this week’s downtime!

        2. Venus*

          Spotting would definitely make me think that it is more than just the season. Good choice to separate it!

      4. Wrench Turner*

        Just pulled 15lbs of persimmons, tomatoes and peppers from the front and back yards. I’m almost sick of tomatoes. Almost.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Several months ago, relatives gave me a small house plant…it didn’t come with any care instructions and they couldn’t remember what it was called.

      It seemed to be doing well for awhile, but when it turned from bright pink to pale green that seemed a bad sign. I finally found out what type of plant it is: Pink Quill! I also found out it absorbs water through its leaves, not its roots…oops. I am not good with plants, but from what I gathered online it sounds like the quill isn’t going to recover but I may be able to re-pot the little shoots poking up.

    5. Girasol*

      The garden was pulled in ahead of a frost one night last week. The tomato plants that grew like a jungle in the hot spell but did not set any tomatoes turned out to have quite a crop of green ones hiding inside on the day before the frost. They’re spread on the dining room floor to ripen. The first ones are ready to go into a batch of spaghetti sauce. We did well on potatoes both purple and red, and we have a half dozen cantaloupes left. They did wonderfully with the summer heat.

    6. BlueWolf*

      The cherry tomatoes are still going pretty strong, but I cleaned out a bunch of dead foliage from the plants today. I am trying just a few things for fall/winter, like lettuce, spinach, kale, and some beets. I had sowed some seeds a few weeks ago, but I neglected to water them regularly and we’ve suddenly had a dry fall after a super wet summer, so not much sprouted. I resowed some things today right before we got some rain, so I’m going to try to be more diligent about the water this time around haha.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Well we had to bring in plants before a cold snap and they’re in the living room/dining room willy-nilly, where I will see them all day while I am WFH tomorrow. And one of the plants has an odor I dislike that no one else can smell, and I can’t narrow it down!

  2. Lower Back Exercises?*

    I am really overweight & out of shape, to the point where standing for a few minutes is quite painful to my lower back. Are there any exercises, or sources for exercises, that might help with this? Thanks!

    1. Pamela Adams*

      Bend from the waist, keeping your back straight. Basically, your body becomes a 90 degree angle. Put your hands straight out on a chair or sink edge. Stretch gently.

    2. Double A*

      I had debilitating lower back pain in my 20s and strengthening my core was key to addressing it. I did physical therapy, but pilates incorporates all the exercises they had me do, so I did Pilates regularly for years, a combination of videos (Stott Pilates is a good place to check out) and in-person classes.

      A couple of months ago I signed up for Momma Strong. Even though it’s targeted at mothers, I think it would be a really good resource if you’re just getting started with exercises that focus on your core. She talks about “integration” of key parts of your body to support functional movement, and there are resources that focus on specific areas of your body. There’s a new video every day, workouts are 15 minutes, and she’s super supportive of whatever your body needs. And if you’d be more comfortable with a program aimed at men they have a program called Papa Strong but I haven’t checked that out.

      It’s $12 a month but you can start with a 2 week free trial..I personally am more accountable to use things of I pay for them and I’d say it’s worth it.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        +1 for core strengthening exercises. Even just tensing your stomach muscles when you’re standing can help take pressure off your lower back.

        I also found the yoga cat and cow pose really helpful – but I tend to hunch forward so any exercise that helps me stretch out the other way helps too.

      2. Copper penny*

        My prenatal pilates class also catered for other people with limitations. So back pain or needing limited core work for other reasons. That is another place to look. Since we are talking about prenatal you can check the YouTube channel body fit by Amy or baby fit by Amy.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding PT with a focus on core–but a trained PT will be good at giving you the right set of exercises to strengthen and not strain.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          +1000. I so agree regarding a trained PT. What is right for my back may not be good for yours. I have a really bad back, but most of mine is caused by other injured body parts which has resulted in muscle groups being turned off, then my low back tries to compensate (ow). So I need to do certain stretches and targeted exercises to keep myself functioning properly. Pilates would be terribly damaging to my specific situation, although I know so many people for whom it’s been an incredibly positive thing. Everyone is different! Good luck and I wish you success!

      4. PostalMixup*

        Yes to MommaStrong! In addition to the daily 15 min workouts, there are targeted “Fix Me” courses that run about two weeks (if you do them every day, longer if you take days off), 10-20 min per day. There’s one for back pain, one for knee pain, one for shoulder pain, etc. I’m planning to start the Diastasis course soon. And for the days that you can’t manage 15 min, there are 5 min “Hacks.” Honestly, that’s what I do almost exclusively. Because for some reason I have trouble finding those 15 min, but 5 is something I can manage, even if it’s right before bed (that would be the “Wind Down” hack). Even with only 5 min per day, I have much less knee pain, better posture, and more endurance.
        Another wonderful thing about MommaStrong is that there is ZERO focus on weight; it’s all about function. There is a separate nutrition program if you want it, but the exercise portion is very conscious about avoiding “diet culture.”

    3. Quandong*

      If you have access to Pilates especially using a reformer, this is what helped me the most (I have a tendency to arch my back & my lower back started hurting when I was standing/walking in art galleries Before). If you don’t have access to Pilates, look for exercises specifically intended to build core strength and develop greater postural stability.

      I am far from straight-sized and was able to make a difference to my everyday life with attention to core strength. I hope you get good ideas here but of course if your pain persists please consider seeing a physiotherapist or other professional.

      1. Quandong*

        Brief addition – I didn’t start Pilates in a huge class, but in person with an instructor who worked at a physiotherapy place. I’d had an assessment to make sure it was suitable for me and learned a lot from the instructor in sessions over the course of about one year.

        It was specifically for beginners and people managing back pain, or going through some recovery after injury. I don’t think it would have gone so well for me to have launched into a class designed for the general population! I did try some in person after I felt confident, but it didn’t suit me as well as the classes focussed on building strength.

    4. Hornets*

      If standing even for a few minutes is painful, you really need to consult a doctor before doing anything else.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, I was coming here to say this. OP, aside from making sure you can handle an exercise program and there’s nothing wrong other than needing to lessen the pressure on your joints and back, they’ll probably be able to suggest a few light exercises to get started. After doing that, you can find a trainer who specializes in working with people who are limited in mobility, have had back surgery, etc. Assuming it’s within your budget, of course. You could even just pay for a few sessions and then keep up with it on your own. My trainer now specializes in working with the 45+ crowd (me!) and those who have physical issues. He’s had six knee surgeries (partial and full replacement, as well as repair) so he’s great at helping people find a way to exercise without hurting themselves.

        1. BlueKazoo*

          Physical therapy might also be an option. Good doctors will recommend that over pain meds when you have back pain. I’ve found that PT’s can help you figure out that line between challenging yourself versus pushing too hard. Working smart versus hard. They also are good at identifying when your posture is off, which if not corrected can lead to injury. And recommending specific modifications.

          1. Carol th happy elf*

            No offense to Chiropractic, but Chiropractic vs Physical Therapy is like the old thing about “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. TEACH a man to fish, and you feed him for the rest of his life.”
            Get a referral to a physical therapist, and learn the exercises for your specific medical issues. My best friend has scoliosis, and surgeons put in a single straight metal rod when she was sixteen. They would NEVER do that now; it causes too many horrible problems down the road. Plus, it was done in a military hospital, and they gave her phys therapy exercises she did faithfully for 20 yrs.

            Fast forward to a better Dr., and a better physical therapist, who asked her to show her routine- he yelled “Stop!” and looked at all the exercises, then told her that they’d given her a standard military exercise plan that did more harm than good. She’s better now, but the damage is not going away.

    5. Pennyworth*

      The Mayo Clinic has back exercises which I have found helpful. You can also find “breathing exercises to strengthen your core” on line, I haven’t done them for many years but when I did my back and abdominal muscles got quite strong doing about 10 minutes a day, and I even improved my fitness (not sure why that happened). I love hydrotherapy pools when I can access them, the warmth and support let you relax and target areas with specific exercises. Get medical advice/clearance first, to identify what is right for your type of pain. I hope you get some relief, back pain is so debilitating.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If you’re able to access a pool, water walking is how a family member’s doctor had her rebuild her strength after an injury. Literally walking around in the shallow end–choose the depth that balances resistance with supporting enough of your weight to be comfortable. Swim a few strokes in the middle for variety if you want.
        Unfortunately a lot of indoor pools are closed or extremely limited right now, so I don’t know how practical this suggestion can be.

    6. Barbara Eyiuche*

      You might have osteoarthritis of the spine, so I would suggest consulting a doctor. However, the doctor will most likely suggest exercise.

      I found walking a lot helped with my lower back pain. I started off walking in places that had a lot of benches or chairs, because at first I could only stand for a few minutes at a time. So I would walk as far as I could, sit and rest, then walk as far as I could, then sit and rest, and so on. Gradually I could walk further before needing to sit down. Eventually I could walk for a couple of hours without having to rest.

      Places I went to walk that had the right spacing of benches: parks, the zoo, art galleries, museums, malls. The local walking track was not suitable at first because the only resting places were spaced too far apart.

    7. German Girl*

      Seconding all the recommendations for core strengthening exercises. It helps a lot. You can even start out lying down and just focusing on collecting your core when you breathe out. Once you’ve got that down, try collecting your core and lengthening your spine in standing. It should really help. If this is easy when prone with knees up but close to impossible with straight legs or in standing – as it was for me in the beginning – then you might need to gently stretch out your hip flexors and psoas to allow your body to keep the pelvis upright while the legs are straight.

      1. German Girl*

        Also, to wake up all the core muscles and remind them how to do their job, I found this mobilizer sequence of pelvic tucks and tilts super helpful: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zBdGY9qMoDs

        It’s aimed at dancers but really good for anyone who wants to improve the coordination between the low back and hip.

    8. Been there*

      Highly recommend going to a physiotherapist, who can assess you and design a program specifically for you that scales with your improvement.. Jumping into exercise out of nowhere can make your problems worse.

      I understand that it can be intimidating to go to a medical professional when you know you’re overweight and out of shape, but in my experiences, physiotherapists are way more empathetic and willing to meet you where you are and help you rather than judge you. They’re also view the body more as a complex system and holistically than doctors seem to.

      1. Ancient Llama*

        I don’t know what physiotherapy is, but I was coming to say similar: going to medical professionals when overweight feels embarrassing. But they are there to help you. They know your health recover is a marathon (long slower pace) not a sprint and you are more likely to stick with it (this first part of getting your back in shape so that you will see incremental change and keep going – as an overweight person myself, my goal is not my weight but being able to do what I want without feeling winded that day or sore the next) if they give you something that will work for you and don’t shame you. Just like with you find with managers (as shown here on AAM), different ones will be better at holding you accountable without being overbearing or critical, so find one who can do that and let them help set you on the right course.
        Several people on here had good options to consider, like working out in the pool, but really the best suggestion is to find a medical professional to partner with you.

    9. hugs*

      Just wanted to add that if you sit a lot, your hip flexors are probably tight, which can also lead to lower back pain, so some gentle stretching or foam rolling could be helpful.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        +1. I have this issue and find basic sun salutation flows and keeping a yoga strap under my bed to stretch my calves/hips out can help a lot with this. Definitely easy to do when you’re not in shape!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Not exactly what you asked for but it’s so cheap to do I have to chime in.

      Drink water, daily. Have a minimum goal that you commit to and make sure you hit it more often than not.

      I measure out my water into Ball canning jars every morning. That way I know where I am at as I go through my day. I try to get in a little more than half of it before noon.

      Lower backs are really odd critters. If kidneys or bowels are having an issue our lower backs can really yell at us. Regular water intake can encourage the organs to function properly.

      Again, not what you ask but I have gotten results with it- eat raw veggies daily. I prefer salads that are diced up really well. We can “will” ourselves to work harder at our concerns, but when we make these decisions it’s a super supportive activity to make sure we are getting some nutrition in on a routine basis. I don’t exercise because- life!- but by simply watching water and raw veggies I notice a big difference in my level of aches/pains and my ability to move around.

    11. LuckyDog*

      Sorry to hear you’re hurting. Suggest walking, any distance you’re up for, can be very helpful. Even around a building, or down a hallway and back. Our bodies were made for it!
      Back pain can be because our spines get tired of holding our bodies erect, so any abdominal strengthening can help. Walking can be part of this strengthening. Best wishes!

    12. Boof*

      Aside from making sure there’s nothing else going on medically and presuming this is usual arthritis type pain, my advice is honestly to focus on diet/weight loss as much as exercise. If you exercise without diet (counting calories and daily weights really), most likely you will not lose weight, and losing weight can help joint pain a lot.
      I am not saying don’t exercise!!!! Stretches and exercise help a lot too, but it’s really a whole package and if you’re struggling to do much activity focusing on diet as well may be more feasible. Also, swimming if you have access to a pool or water is great exercise that’s easy on the joints.

    13. fposte*

      Stuart McGill’s book The Back Mechanic. It’s the gold standard. McGill is the back authority in North America.

    14. Koala dreams*

      I agree with the suggestions for physical therapy. A therapist can often give you specific exercises as well as help you find the type of exercise you are looking for.

    15. RagingADHD*

      Hamstring stretches, along with working abs and glutes! You can make a significant reduction in back pain almost immediately by “activating” or waking up these muscle groups. You’ll need to continue stretching and strengthening them over time to really solve the issue, but I have experienced temporary relief the same day.

      For hamstrings, put one heel on the ground in front of you and bend slightly forward at the hip (not the waist) so your back is a straight line and the hip is a hinge. Hold onto furniture if you need extra balance. You can get more stretch by bending the standing leg, or by propping your heel up on something, or both. Hold about 30 seconds and relax to stretch deeper.

      Do each leg several times throughout the day, especially after sitting for a while.

      There are many different exercises to activate and strengthen your abs, from crunches to planks to pilates or isometrics.

      For glutes, you can try donkey kicks, standing kickbacks, or deadlifts.

      I recommend the YouTube channel Bob and Brad for simple exercises to correct pain or mobility issues. They’re chill, funny and straightforward.

    16. Podkayne*

      A long time ago, when I had lower back pain, my doctor recommended that I sleep on my back instead of my side or a variation thereof. I really, really resisted this, for several reasons, and it felt psychologically uncomfortable in the beginning, but as I persisted, it came to feel not only natural, but quite good. I could even call it “the dead man pose” if I wanted. :-) …. And most importantly, it relieved the lower back pain. I still sleep on my back.

      1. Rara Avis*

        Interesting— my doctor recommended never sleeping on my back (or stomach), so I sleep on my side with a knee pillow. It’s the only position that doesn’t hurt my back.

      2. allathian*

        I can’t sleep on my back, because my chest is so heavy that it gets really uncomfortable. The most I can do is a reclining position. I sometimes prop myself up with pillows if I’m really congested, but I can’t get a restful night’s sleep that way.

    17. PT*

      Water fitness!! Water fitness is great for taking stress off your joints and building strength until you are able to do more.

      You can start with something simple, like walking back and forth in the shallow end, before you progress even to an organized beginner’s class. You don’t even need to know how to swim, though if that’s the case, I recommend giving the lifeguard or instructor a head’s up before you get in so they know to keep an extra eye on you.

      Water fitness classes are usually designed for seniors, but they are always happy to have younger people, and they’re usually friendly, unless by random chance you get a grumpy bunch.

    18. Chief Bottle Washer*

      Agree with the folks who suggest you check with a doc to make sure there aren’t serious problems that need to be addressed. Assuming you check out okay, one thing that might help is massage. I have dealt with a bad back since I was a teenager. About two years ago I started getting monthly massages. I haven’t had a back incident during that time. She keeps me tuned up so stuff doesn’t get worse over time.

    19. Girasol*

      After I checked with the doc to see if my back pain needed rest or exercise (it’s arthritis, so it wants exercise) I restarted using the Tarheels medicine ball routine. A 10lb medicine ball is cheap and easy to store and I can do all the exercises in the bedroom in the morning. It’s got some shoulder and leg exercises but it mostly focuses on core with a nice variety of moves. It’s a good place to restart exercising after being off for awhile because it’s not too hard and doesn’t take long at all but it’s enough that you can feel the difference. I like it when for whatever reason I’m not getting enough heavier exercise. It helps, and it’s too short and easy to make excuses about.

    20. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      My eldest is quite heavy and I had an injury, we read about aerial yoga and have been doing it for months now.
      It’s yoga, but the silks help with balance and stability. My core is so much stronger! Also, when I started, I could not lift my right arm past my eye (arm straight out), now I have full mobility.
      Bonus, I’ve found that I like being upside down! Haha! – This is a bonus, and not part of the regular class –

    21. Joie de Vivre*

      Not what you asked for, but if/when you walk for exercise go get fitted for shoes at a running store. Not a big box store. (And not at a one brand store either like Nike). An independent running store will get you in shoes that work with the way your feet hit the ground.

      The first time I was fitted for shoes that worked for my feet I ended up with some very ugly shoes. But they made such a difference in how I ran that I’ll always go to a running store to get running/walking shoes.

      1. Chaordic One*

        This is good advice. There’s a running store near where I live and they charge a $20.00 “fitting fee” which they will deduct from the price of any shoes you buy there. However, they do seem to know what they are doing. Apparently a lot of people were getting fitted there, and then going off and buying shoes elsewhere, because the shoes at this particular store are fairly expensive and you might be able to save a few dollars by buying the same shoe at another store.

    22. Michaela*

      Suggest getting a back brace so you can do things like walk without hurting, while you also strengthen your core. I don’t suggest it for long term, just until it doesn’t hurt without it.

      A cheap alternative is to use a weight lifting belt – my Dad was visiting and his back was having issues, so with no back brace as he’d left it at home, he tried my lifting belt, and apparently they’re cheaper (around $20) and work just as well. Also if you ever take up lifting, which is great for back issues if done properly (done improperly it can make things worse), you’ll already have a belt if you need one.

    23. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I had lower back issues as well. The only thing that truly helped was physical therapy. I begged my PCP (an older woman, also slightly overweight – I feel this is imp to mention) for help and she referred me to an orthopedic Dr who wrote me the Rx for Phys therapy. He was my favorite orthopedic doctor ever. Just 4 sessions of PT did wonders and I was able to resume my 4 block walk to my office and other light duties. Unfortunately, right after I got pregnant and COVID happened so all that stopped. But I would always recommend physical therapy.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Want to add – nothing wrong in googling back stretches. I was skeptical about PT as well but in my first session, they asked a lot of questions, including my history and my goals. My therapist asked me to show her how I walk. I know I’ve been walking funny most of my life but I could never articulate why, and she was able to tell me what I was doing and how I can improve upon it. My therapist was also great in the soft skills department, so that was a bonus as well.

        So, to me, the benefit of physical therapy was someone who can view the way you’re walking and operating and guide you. That kind of on-hands help is extremely valuable IMO.

    24. Rebecca Stewart*

      Core strengthening exercises will help a lot. I have a lot of trigger points in my sacroiliac area so lying on the floor to do anything is out; I do my floor yoga on the bed. And it worked anyway.

    25. PollyQ*

      To people who suggested exercises & other tips: Thank you! This was exactly what I was looking for. I’ve noted down everything and will dig in to find a good starting point.

      To people who suggested I see a doctor: This is good advice, and I am currently seeing a variety of doctors for a variety of issues. This makes me a little reluctant to open another front in the war, as it were, but if I don’t get some fairly quick DIY relief I’ll raise the issue with my PCP.

      To people who suggested I lose weight: … C’mon, really? Every fat person in the world already knows that they’d be better off if they lost some weight, and also that the basic rule is “eat less, exercise more.” The problem is not in the delivery, it’s that it’s neither new nor useful information. Put this one in the pile with recommending adoption to people struggling with fertility.

  3. Anony*

    Best, most engaging podcasts you’ve listened to recently? Or audiobooks that are “lighter” reads? Looking for new material for some upcoming long stretches of travel.

    1. Chris_915*

      This might be VERY niche, but if you can understand the New Zealand accent and don’t mind listening to two 30-somethings who laugh a lot talking about their gardening adventures, We Like To Garden (Greer and Libby) is definitely engaging.

      I have also been enjoying an audiobook about medical diagnoses, of all things! The Great Courses “Medical School for Everyone”. Confession: I sleep with earphones, listening to audiobooks, so if I wake up and don’t immediately fall back to sleep, I am distracted from my own thoughts by interesting non-fiction, and also don’t feel as though I have wasted my time. This is definitely ticking my boxes.

      Otherwise – possibly not light? but engaging, and not connected with any current concerns, “Troy” by Stephen Fry, as narrated by Mr Fry himself, is riveting!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I just finished Fry’s “Mythos” and the rest of the series is on deck :)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I’m usually utter rubbish at paying attention to audiobooks, but for some reason, Stephen Fry’s writing-and-reading style just works for me, and it’s like he’s perched on a seat in the corner of my office behind me just kinda rambling about Greek mythology. Love it.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Audiobooks: “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon is a rom-commy YA with great narration (honestly, look up Bahni Turpin on Audible and choose anything that sounds interesting – she has a lovely voice and is a fantastic narrator). “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson is quirky and cute. I’ve listened to two of Alix E. Harrow’s books and they were really good, although there were times I wished I could easily go back and re-read things.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      Fortunately with Fi and Jane.
      It’s a BBC podcast by two British women (but you don’t have to be british or a woman to enjoy it!) who are both longtime radio broadcasters (one did radio 4’s Woman’s Hour until recently which is a British radio legend and behemoth). It’s chatty, very funny, touches on deeper issues as well, and they usually have an interesting guest.

    4. Virginia Plain*

      You’re Dead To Me is really good too -it’s history but funny and light and easy to listen too. But not stupid. They have a proper expert in whatever the subject is plus a comedian to chat with. And it deals with things you might know a bit about or things you might never of heard of, and it’s not U.K. centric – there’s been an episode on the Probibition which was v good. But also Ivan the Terrible and the Mughals and Boudicca…

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Something similar to that, but unfortunately no new episodes for quite a while, is Mobituaries with Mo Rocca. It’s funny and interesting and not always people being eulogized.

    5. Pennyworth*

      The Infinite Monkey Cage on BBC – Brian Cox and Robin Ince with expert guests talk about a different science topic each episode. Entertaining and educational. About 150 episodes available.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      If you like National Geographic in general, they have an interesting short podcast called Overheard at Nat Geo. I’ve enjoyed most of the episodes — 2 or 3 haven’t been my thing — but they have a lot of topics they cover: history, space, general science, animals, current events…

    7. I take tea*

      I’m not much of a podcast person, but I have enjoyed David Tennant does a podcast with… (usually an actor). It’s like listning to a couple of persons having an engaging conversation, but not so much that it feels like eavesdropping. And they are kind. I know some people say that tension makes it interesting, but I just get stressed.

    8. Richard Hershberger*

      For history buffs, The British History Podcast is absolutely amazing. It starts with the last ice age and, 380 episodes in, is very nearly up to 1066.

      Also: Tides of History. This is more general. He was doing the Renaissance, then about a year ago switched to a new series on prehistory. It is fascinating. About twenty years ago DNA researchers figured out how to take samples from ancient bones. They called up their archaeologist colleagues and asked if they had any old bones lying about. It turns out they did: massive numbers, all exquisitely labeled as to origin. The result has been a revolution in our understanding of ancient populations. This is all very new. If your reading on the subject is from more than about five years ago, it is out of date.

    9. TPS reporter*

      Anything David Sedaris. He records his own audiobooks. Just watch the road when you’re crying laughing!

    10. Sopranohannah*

      I’ve really enjoyed Newton’s law, A limited podcast about Newton’s tenure as warden of the Royal Mint.

    11. Wrench Turner*

      The Anthrochef’s History of Food is a fascinating and wonderful look at, well, the history of food. Can’t recommend it enough.

    12. Pool Lounger*

      Maintenance Phase! Two hosts who research, discuss, and debunk diet fads, MLMs, and “health” related topics. Funny, informative, and has made me think about my body in a more positive way.

        1. Headshrinker Extraordinaire*

          Michael Hobbes’ other podcast You’re Wrong About is also great, and at times very thought provoking, but not “light”. Their OJ Simpson series has been fantastic.

    13. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      I spend my workdays listening to paranormal podcasts. Hillbilly Horror Stories, Into the Fray with Shannon Legro and Howard Hughes the Unexplained are all great.

    14. fposte*

      If you like food, the Off Menu podcast is a delight–the conceit is that the guest is in their dream restaurant and they get to order their ideal meal through multiple courses. The two hosts are comedians in London but guests have been from the US as well as the UK, and the dishes mentioned range from family cooking to posh restaurants to cheap takeout. There’s a lot of discussion about why this choice is the best and what other versions came close, and it’s funny and obsessive and entertaining.

    15. Texan In Exile*

      I like HYPHENATED, with Joanna Hausmann & Jenny Lorenzo. Joanna is from Venezuela and Jenny is Cuban American. They talk about Latino culture – especially in the earlier episodes – and are funny and interesting.

    16. GoryDetails*

      In the “lighter” audiobooks category, give Tony James Slater a try. He’s written several hilarious travel/memoir books, all available on audio, and I adore them. From THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS (about Slater’s stint at an animal-rescue in Ecuador) to KAMIKAZE KANGAROOS (traveling around Australia with his sister and her best friend) to SHAVE MY SPIDER (an extended trip through countries in southeast Asia) he’s always one pratfall away from disaster, but manages to see and do some amazing things.

    17. ecnaseener*

      For podcasts I like Ologies (interviews with experts in a variety of niche topics), Hidden Brain (psych/behavior topics, with a more storytelling-based structure), SciShow Tangents (“lightly competitive” with 3 hosts bringing in fun facts about different topics), Lingthusiasm (linguistics)

      For audiobooks, Mary Kate Wiles has a full-cast reading of Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea (that one still in progress).

    18. Aealias*

      Fair warning – I am low-key geeky…

      I am far from the only person around here in love with Critical Role podcast – it’s a fantasy adventure, with a sizeable cast of excellent voice actors improvising a story. The framework is dungeons and dragons, but the POINT is character interactions an storytelling. There are literally years of long-form storytelling. Some people dislike the episode length – they can stretch to four hours! – but I find it easy to listen on my commute, turn it off when I get to work, and pick it back up when I walk the dog later. Funny (there are so many dirty jokes!) poignant (characters die, and it’s hard when it happens) and cozy (you’re basically sitting in on a group of friends, with all the teasing and banter you’d expect) I love it passionately.

      Probably my favourite audio-book to date was the YA Leviathan/Behemoth/Goliath steampunk series by Scott Westerfeld. The story is fun and engaging alternate history, the characters are layered and unique, and the reader is AMAZING.

    19. Books On Ninth*

      I really enjoy “Stuff You Missed in History Class”, “Apocalist Book Club”, “Overdue”, “Dead Authors Podcast”, and “You Must Remember This”. All are book/research related, but I grew up listening to NPR a lot as a kid, so I gravitated to book/educational podcasts. Plus, all of these have substantial back catalogs, and most do one podcast per contained topic, so you can easily bounce around the back catalogs for topics that interest you.

      As for audiobooks, I just finished “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. It is breezy and informative, and not super heavy. I am also enjoying “Me” by Elton John. The narrator is Tarryn Edgerton (so?) who starred in “Rocketman”, so it feels pretty on point. I would also highly recommend the “Sal and Gabi…” books by Carlos Hernandez in audio. They are middle grade fiction (heads up), and the narrator is just an absolute delight. Plus the stories are just plain fun.

    20. Lock*

      Favorite podcasts: My Favorite Murder (comedy and true crime), or Pod Save America (politics), or My Brother, My Brother, and Me (or MBMBAM, comedy). I can kill a ton of time with them.

    21. Trekkie*

      If you’re a Star Trek fan, I recommend InvestiGates with Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher on TNG). She interviews fellow Trek actors about their lives and careers. The Delta Flyers is good too; Robbie McNeill (Tom Paris) and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) are going through Voyager episodes in order, reviewing them and giving behind the scenes details.

    22. VictoriaQ*

      Personally, I’ve really liked Noble Blood, a podcast that details the lives of rulers or nobility, or sometimes people related to nobility. It can be a bit gruesome, but its usually quite neat and usually not too graphic. I’ve also really been into The Other Half, which details the lives of queens and other powerful women. I’m only about 15 episodes in, and we’ve gotten through like 4 Roman emperors, but it’s quite fascinating.

    23. Marion Ravenwood*

      I always say these two in podcast threads, but:

      – You’re Dead To Me (billed as ‘a history podcast for people who don’t like history’). Greg Jenner – historian and self-styled ‘chief nerd’ on the Horrible Histories TV show – talks to a historian and a comedian about a particular person/historical event/topic. They just did a really good Paul Robeson episode, but the show covers everything from the history of chocolate to vampires in Gothic literature to the Mayflower to various historical figures. Very funny but also very informative.
      – Out To Lunch – Jay Rayner (restaurant critic for the Guardian newspaper) interviews celebrities over lunch in various fancy restaurants (or, during the various UK lockdowns, a Zoom call and a delivery from said various fancy restaurants). It’s insightful, witty and highly charming.
      – Sentimental Garbage, specifically the Sentimental and the City mini-series which focused on each series of Sex and the City as a Great American Novel. The two hosts (Caroline O’Donoghue and Dolly Alderton) are both really funny but also get into very deep conversation and it’s such an interesting analysis of the show.

    24. The Cat's Pajamas*

      I just finished “50 things that aren’t my fault,” the memoir of Cathy Guisewite, author of the Cathy comic strip. Her mother has some occasional guest appearances, which are sweet. She talks about her career and life juggling an elderly mother and raising her daughter.

      “Is this anything?” was a mostly fun retrospective of Jerry Seinfeld’s career, he goes back through his old jokes from each decade, interspersed with stories about his career. Some of the jokes did not age well, but if you can overlook that, the rest is mostly light and fun.

      “Still Buffering” is a podcast that started out as three sisters comparing what being a teenager was like then and now. The youngest sister is no longer a teenager, so now they talk about fun pop culture things.

    25. ADHD Anon*

      I have a long commute and generally prefer light / funny listening. all have a lot of past episodes:

      Judge John Hodgeman – he settles disputes between listeners.
      No Such Thing as a Fish – just people from Britain talking about interesting facts. Funny light and fast moving
      Hilarious World of Depression. Can be heavy but is very well done.
      My Dad Wrote a Porno – this guys dad wrote a 50 shades of grayish erotic novel and the son reads it outloud with 2 friends. It is the most reliably funny /awful / amazing thing.

  4. Little Beans*

    My dad’s wife is elderly and in poor health, and is asking family members to do a lot to help her. At first, we were happy to help occasionally, but now the requests are almost weekly and always very specific. Can we pick up her groceries at a particular market that is not near our house, can we make her homemade applesauce, can we take some old furniture to the dump, can we get her car detailed. To be honest, my husband and I both work full time and we have an 18-month-old — we don’t have time to run errands for ourselves, much less for someone else.
    For those who have dealt with elderly parents, is this just normal? As family, do we suck it up and do it? Or is there a limit where it’s ok to start saying no, and if so, how?

    1. Pennyworth*

      Of course it is OK to start saying no, kindly.Try lowering her expectations – tell her you only have time to get her groceries at the store you shop at yourself, and does she have a brand of applesauce she likes that you can buy because you aren’t able to make some. Try to offer choices – like would she be OK with groceries from where you buy them or would she rather make some other arrangement, etc. Things like taking the furniture to the dump and getting the car detailed, can she afford for someone else to do it, or to come and collect the car? It sounds like she is trying to maintain her old way of doing things without adapting to her current situation. If you are unable to shop for her regularly, talk to her about setting up a system for getting her groceries without your involvement.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I agree. If you can take care of the outcome easily (but her groceries where you buy yours) it is kind to do so but you don’t have to do it the way she would have.

        Suggest she throw money at the problem. Buy her applesauce, pay someone to detail or just wash the car (I get my car washed maybe 6 times a year, never detailed), etc.

        But as her ability declines she cannot just call on the busy couple with a toddler to do things for her the way she would have. You may need to have an overarching conversation about what you can do for her and what she’ll need to get other help for.

    2. Barbara Eyiuche*

      It is up to you how much you are willing to help. She will only get worse, however. If you can help, I think being very clear and straightforward at the outset is a good idea. Have a meeting including all other family members who are willing to help (if there are any others), and discuss what needs to be done. Some tasks may have to be modified – maybe you could get her groceries every week, but at the store you shop at. Also investigate other help in the community. There are usually resources available to help seniors stay in their homes. See if any money is available to hire help. My family did not discuss and explore options when my parents first needed help, we just added on tasks on the fly, and it was a disaster. Get everything clear – the money and time available, how much each person is willing to do, how much help is needed.

      1. sp*

        Absolutely. A friend of mine said she felt her dad also declined more quickly because he realized they would do everything for him. Now that my father in law is needing some assistance and we work full time with two young kids and live across the city, we set very clear boundaries and usually offer to help him find a service to help him (funds are not an issue). We also let him know if he insists we do something, it will be at a time that we can accommodate easily. He will often decline that because he is the type who just wants to see how high he can get people to jump.

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree that you need to set some limits with what you’re willing to do. And if your dad is in better health than she is, he should be the one to do most of the grocery shopping, even if it’s been her chore until now. I think that you can nope right out of doing time consuming stuff like making homemade applesauce for her.

    4. Weekend Energy*

      A longer discussion is likely needed as well as identifying senior resources in your area but in the meanwhile, simply slowing down across the board is an option:
      – Slower responses to non-urgent issues (kind of like not being the fastest responder on a work email. It trains people not to help themselves)
      – Slower delivery on non-urgent requests (we’re busy the next few weeks, we’ll probably be making another batch next month)

      For each of these, it communicates that you are very busy and not able to drop everything. Doctors appointments and safety matters, yes. For the little luxuries (specific groceries!) it’s much more of a “maybe, if we can fit it in, but not committing to a timeline”. The more your can redirect to other helpful people of community resources, the easier this will be. The mental load you’re carrying is significant. Slowing down and remembering that she, a fellow adult, can handle certain changes and choices will help significantly. Put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others. Nipping this in the bud now will likely save you enormous stress later since each task you agree to becomes the new normal.

    5. Wrench Turner*

      It’s… hard. Part of dealing with it -and it’s an ongoing process- was moving our dad in to an assisted living home. He couldn’t take care of himself and we couldn’t take care of him. He didn’t go willingly, it literally took a year of 2 near-death medical emergencies and trying to take care of him and his hoarder house for him to ‘see the light’ and even that was only after a year of him being at the home. Even now he still asks for a lot and eventually we started telling him the truth: “We don’t have time to do this now, we’ll get to it if we can, no promises.”

      Once you start saying no, they can figure it out for themselves or go without. BUT -importantly- if not already, there may be fast approaching a point where they need to downsize the home and relocate or get outside professional help. It’s a hard conversation but will need to be had eventually and it’s best if they’re willing participants.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This is so hard.

      What my husband and I did with his mother was to have one time a week that was a set time just to help her. We would tell her to make a list of what she needed and we would do it on that preset day.

      In your examples here- you can look for ways to delegate. Does her favorite grocery store have home delivery? Is there a service in your area that would bring her groceries to her?
      Applesauce- the answer here might be “NO, sorry”. I would only make it for her if I was doing a batch for my own use, too.
      Furniture to go to the dump- find someone who would bring it for her. There are lots of people running small businesses who will take trash, yard waste, etc and haul it for people.

      Our priority became matters that are personal such as finances and health. Those things we’d allot time for, other things are things that other people can do and they can be hired out.

      Generally speaking:
      Set time limits- “we can help you two afternoons a month”.
      Set task limits-“our vehicle is not big enough to hold large items” OR “we are at work when the dump is open” OR “it takes both us to do a heavy lift and [one of you] cannot lift because [legit medical reason]”.
      Set limits to your own out-of-pocket expenses- “I can take go get your groceries next week, but I need help with gas because gas is getting very spendy and your store is not on my usual routes.”

      Encourage/be supportive of other family members when they talk about helping Wife as getting to be too much. These people can become your ally in campaigning for Wife to build a new plan that does not involve family. “Yeah, I agree, this is not sustainable for us either. Let’s help Wife build a stronger plan. Maybe we can team up and toss ideas around to make this easier on all of us.”

      I know this can bring on feelings of guilt. Let me tell you a horror story. I ran so much for my own parents that I ended up in the ER. One of the lasting effects from that time frame is that I no long drive long distances alone. I just can’t do it. I can go about 2 hours from my house and that is it for me. Giving too much and forgetting to take care of YOU can go into short-term health problems and longer term changes in how you go about life. What seems like a “her issue” now can work into a “you issue” later.
      Think of it this way, if you do not pace yourself and you take on too much you could land in a place where you might not be able to help her at all. It’s better to be selective so that you can keep going at life. Maybe other family would be willing to create a rotation where each person has 1 day a week that they go see her. Look around and see what the possibilities are- it’s worth it for both you and her. And this is something that you can say to her face- “You can help me to help you by agreeing to hire out x, y and z.”

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        Yes, take care of yourself. I had to go to the ER with a stress induced ventricular tachycardia because of my dad. It hit me that I had to set some limits when after I got out of the ER and was going to go help him with yet another thing that morning because I had been guilted so hard into doing things. My wife convinced me that doing all this was maybe why I was in the ER a couple hours prior…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, guilt is a biggie.

          But reality is if we each live long enough then we too will face these situations. So each one of us is responsible for getting a plan for old age/aging. I am seeing more articles about aging in place, I am glad that this topic is opening up for discussion. We can modify our homes and our habits so that we can remain independent longer.
          When I think of my elders, the ones who made a plan for aging were the ones who made out better. They were more self-sufficient for a longer period of time. What surprised me was most of them were happy with their new setting, probably because it suited their stage in life. They did not face daily problems with lawn mowing, window washing, etc because they had a plan in place for all of these things.

      2. retired2*

        I am the parent. When I was 70 I initiated a conversation with my son and his wife about what we needed to do as I aged. It ended up me moving into a duplex with them. I miss my house and my friends, but I would have died from an unexpected medical emergency last winter if my daughter in law were not tracking what was happening, although I have an entirely separate living space. I got to keep my cat and I can garden. I shop on the internet…she can get special applesauce there (I get sauerkraut that is not pasteurized). I live in a rural area and there’s lots of ways I can get my needs met without asking my kids.

        1. Kardamumma*

          As a side question, what is the advantage of unpasteurized sauerkraut? I see it at our farmers market. Much more expensive. Is it worth it?

          1. Mephyle*

            Please ignore the above old message that stuck in my reply window; I erased it before writing it so I don’t know how it survived.

            What I wrote, and meant to answer was this:

            You’re in perfect agreement with him in one way at least: you too believe in personal dynamics, and your own personal dynamics lead you not to gift up.

            1. Mephyle*

              Obviously there is a technical problem with my replies. Let’s see if it works this time.
              The heat of pasteurization destroys the beneficial bacteria that grew while the sauerkraut fermented. The unpasteurized sauerkraut also retains the vitamin C of raw cabbage, that is destroyed in cooking.
              It’s worth it if you want the benefits of the bacteria and vitamins. Not necessary if your main reason for loving sauerkraut is the taste.

        2. Chilli Heeler*

          I applaud you for being proactive and realistic about your needs. I was actually going to post a question on this same topic, but in my case, my dad is 93, and I’m having to petition for guardianship because he’s no longer fully competent. It makes it so much easier on everyone, and ensures a better outcome for you, when you make these decisions yourself in advance.

        3. Might Be Spam*

          My benchmark for moving to a senior apartment is either I can’t handle stairs or my vision is too poor to drive. These are the two most likely things to happen to me.

          My kids won’t have to worry about how to tell me to move because there’s a hard limit that they know I will accept. (Our family has a code phrase for unreasonable behavior. We call it “Doing a Grandma.”) I looked at places to live for my mother and grandmother so I know they can be pretty nice and fortunately I should be able to afford it.

    7. Green great dragon*

      I agree with everyone else you need to limit. But if she’s being specific about what she would like, I don’t think that’s a bad thing! You seem fine doing some things to help her, so if you can frame it has her letting you know what she’d ideally like as a starting point, rather than her expecting you to do exactly that, it could make the conversation a lot less fraught. (Is ask culture v guess culture a possibility here?)

      She may be presenting it as an expectation, of course, but treating it like a request that can be discussed may make it easier to keep things pleasant while only doing what you reasonably can (pick up groceries only from your local shop, buy the apple sauce, everything non-urgent will have to wait for your next visit when you will be able to tackle as many jobs as fit into [timeframe of your choice])?

      1. Malarkey01*

        Asking for specific help is usually a plus since a lot of us say “let us know what you need” but don’t know exactly what to do. It’s fine to decide that a particular ask is too much but specific asks help cut down on the confusion.

        I will say to answer OPs question, yes in general as parents age their children do have to do more to support them. Sometimes it’s just one of the siblings, sometimes it’s more than others, but they do need more support from somewhere. It’s why we’re often called the sandwich generation caring for both parents and children at the same time.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, the specific requests are a great thing!

        It is quite possible that reasoning out “how much of a bother would this be for these competent people who don’t live here?” is now too difficult for her, even if a decade ago she would have had that social calibration down and only asked for stuff you were happy to do.

    8. WellRed*

      You’ve gotten some great advice here. I’m going to point out that her asking you to get her car detailed and make her Homemade applesauce is beyond reasonable. Asking for grocery help is reasonable ( specific store, no). I guess I’m separating needs from wants.

    9. Fellow Traveller*

      Some of this stuff, can you look to see if you can arrange it for them? like grocery delivery, or mobile car detailing, or trash haulers. I find that often older people aren’t quite familiar with how to find these services since so much is done online these days. It would still involve some work on your part to research and arrange, but perhaps less than doing it yourself.
      I think you are always able to say no, or offer alternatives, or set your own timeline. I like the idea above of setting aside a certain tume each week (or bi weekly or what works for you) to tackle these tasks too- it’s a good way to set limits and expectations

      1. PT*

        You can still get a Yellow Pages, I think, but you have to call and request one be sent to your house. Perhaps having one sent to them would be helpful.

      2. Little Beans*

        I appreciate all the comments! I guess I was feeling like some things were unreasonable and wanted validation. We have tried offering compromises like we’ll pick up groceries from our store while doing our own shopping, or we can buy applesauce, and those offers were declined. She says she’ll figure something else out but then often, we feel bad and say we’ll just do it. So I guess we just need to stay firm!
        Part of the issue is also that there have been multiple times when we weren’t sure how much longer she’d live, and felt like we couldn’t say no. But then she always recovers.

        1. Anonymous*

          It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to let her figure something else out. Start practicing now understanding that no adult child anywhere can be all things to their aging parent. This gets more critical to understand as their health issues increase.
          No matter how hard I worked I could not make my father’s heart have a regular/normal heart beat. The desire to fix their woes can be very high. But we can’t. What we can do is start learning through the smaller things such as trash removal that we cannot do everything for them, no matter how badly we want to.

        2. Green great dragon*

          Oh goodness, yes, don’t cave in! She’s always got the choice of coming back to you later and accepting the other store and bought apple sauce if her ‘something else’ doesn’t work out.

        3. Dumblydore*

          My husband’s grandmother passed away in her mid 90s. For the last 10 years of her life we knew every Christmas could be her last. So each year we would do something that heavily focused on his side of the family, including uncomfortable long distance travels, attending family gatherings I didn’t particularly want to attend, and seeing relatives I didn’t want to see. But it’s hard to argue against “This could be Gramma’s last Christmas.”

          Honestly, I wish I had spent at least a couple of those Christmases doing what I wanted to do. When Gramma passed I was comforted in the knowledge she had a full life – it wasn’t the ten or so “last Christmases” I looked back on.

          It’s true, your dad’s wife could pass away tomorrow (as could we all). But it’s also true she may live another three, five, ten years. For the sake of your sanity and your relationship with her, you need to figure out a way that takes into account what you can realistically provide long term.

          This is such a tough dilemma. I hope you’re able to navigate it with as much kindness to yourself as you are showing to your family.

    10. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Like others have said, this is a difficult thing to deal with. Something you may need to do is objectively look at the situation and sort out what she actually needs help with and what she wants help with. I had to do this with my dad. He became seriously ill and legitimately needed help with alot of things. As time passed and he began getting well, the things he needed help with increased. It got to the point where I was “helping” him every other day and all weekend and I had no life of my own. Most of the things he claimed he needed help with were things he just didnt want to do. I finally had to sit him down for a talk because it was putting a strain on my marriage, not to mention my own mental health.
      It may be that there are things she only wants done, and arent really necessary or that she can do for herself but doesnt want to be bothered with it.

    11. JustForThis*

      How close are you to your Dad’s wife? Does she / do her want you to be a grandma to your toddler? These seem to me questions that might figure into the equation as well.

    12. Pocket Mouse*

      Forgive me, but is your dad able to do any of the things you’re being asked to do? I’m half assuming the answer is no because you’ve likely thought through that option, but without knowing details that would make the answer obvious, and with gendered dynamics and caretaking expectations the way they are, it’s possible he is able to take on at least some of these things (such as researching services/groups that can help, if he’s not able to do a given task himself). He certainly shouldn’t be left out of any brainstorming.

      1. Little Beans*

        My dad is doing all of the house cleaning and most of the cooking, and taking care of their cat. In her weaker spells, she can barely walk around the house, and he fetches her everything. So I don’t at all think he isn’t doing his share. In fact, often she cites giving him a break as the reason that she is asking for our help.

    13. Dumblydore*

      I had the “suck it up and do it for family” mentality for years. Please speak up for the sake of your relationship. This sort of stuff breeds a lot of resentment and frustration. My parents always assumed I was perfectly fine taking care of them because I never spoke up. It got to a point where my anger erupted one day and I did not speak to them for almost a year afterward.

      If your family are reasonable people they will accept your help comes with reasonable boundaries.

    14. Chilli Heeler*

      My heart goes out to you. I just want to echo and underscore the comments that it sounds like it’s time for some conversations about a broader plan for her care, and your dad’s. People always think it’s too soon to start talking about these things, until it’s either gradually or suddenly too late.

      I noted in another comment below that I was actually going to post a question on this same topic, but in my case, my dad is 93, and I’m having to petition for guardianship because he’s no longer fully competent. He has made some plans – he bought good long-term care insurance – but I think he never really thought he would actually need to use it.

      This past week, however, he had a health emergency that landed him in the hospital, because he wasn’t taking adequate care of himself. The good news is that he’s okay, and that the hospital will not discharge him back into independent living. The bad news is that I’m several states away and scrambling to find a care facility and sort out all the legal and financial stuff. I’m also having to enlist the help of local relatives who, I’ve just learned, have already been doing far more than their share for several years now, helping my dad with exactly the kind of tasks your dad’s wife is asking for.

      I know my dad doesn’t want to go into assisted living, especially 24/7 care – no one does – but it would have been much easier for everyone if he had been the one to choose where he wanted to go, or if he’d at least put together an advance health directive. It’s not just that I now have to choose a place sight-unseen; it’s that no matter where he goes, it will be someplace completely new to him, filled with strangers, at a time when he’s increasingly disoriented and fearful. And he’s beginning to refuse meds and fight with doctors, because he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, so I have to make decisions about his healthcare, and can only go on my best guess about what he would have wanted when he was capable of making reasonable decisions. It’s awful, and there’s literally nothing else I can do. I can’t help thinking about how much better it would have been if he had already been living in a facility, with people he knew and trusted, who could step up his care incrementally as needed, and with his input, rather than having to make this sudden drastic change against his will.

      So from the bottom of my heart, I strongly encourage you to talk with both your dad and his wife. Make the conversation about them and their needs. The point is NOT that you don’t care about their needs; that you’re too busy and they’re asking too much and being a bother. The point is that you DO care very much about their needs; that since you realistically can’t provide everything for them, and this will only become more true over time, you want to give them as much say as possible in how they’ll get that support. Stress that the best time for them to make these plans – and actually begin implementing changes – is NOW, BEFORE it’s necessary. See the comment from retired2 below, who did exactly this, and may well owe their life to it.

  5. Laura H.*

    Little Joys Thread

    What brought you joy this week?

    I’m excited for a retreat I’ll be chaperoning next weekend and also we got a cool front this week.

    Please share your joys!

      1. JekyllandJavert*

        I love this thread! I needed some happiness and have loved seeing everyone’s responses. I always get joy from seeing my little guinea pigs run around and play!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I was on vacation from work this week and had absolutely nothing I had to do other than go to one doctor’s appointment. Since the doctor is where I used to live, which is 45 minutes away, I took the opportunity to spend the day with a friend and just visit. I also stopped at the cat rescue, where I volunteer a couple times a year, to drop off donations and play with the cats.

      I finished up my jelly-making for the season. I was ambitious this year and made eight different flavors. I had to stop because I ran out of lids. There’s a lid shortage this year and the stores near me are out of jars, so I’m done.

      I went through a box of my late brother’s pictures, which was given to us by his step kids, so it was fun seeing some very old pictures of him, as well as old pictures of my nieces, nephews, and siblings.

    2. allathian*

      The sun is shining and we’re having perfect, clear October weather with incredibly blue skies.

      Tomorrow we’re going to my parents’ to celebrate my mom’s 75th birthday, coffee and cake. It’s the first time I’m going to see my sister without a mask for a very long time. She’s been even more careful than I’ve been, because her best friend is immunosuppressed and they see each other regularly.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      Best Good Dog was feeling a little more chipper than usual yesterday. (He is an old man dog with cancer, so usually he’s pretty mellow.) We had a lovely stroll around the neighborhood, where he got to see a few of his canine friends and stopped to sniff all the interesting smells along the way. I was happy to see him enjoying himself so much!

    4. Wrench Turner*

      I custom built a luggage rack for my motorcycle and it’s almost perfect. I want to take a road trip soon and needed something to strap my stuffed backpack to. It’s strong enough for me to stand directly on it so… yeah, that’ll do. I couldn’t find anything that even came close to what size I wanted (Imagine dinner plate vs tray table) and as with all motorcycle things, cost more than I want for an occasional bolt-on modification. I built mine for about $80!

    5. Dental patient*

      I got to start drinking hot coffee again – I couldn’t drink it for a week after dental surgery.

    6. Magda*

      I’m going to the renaissance festival!! It’s outdoors and my area’s covid rates are low / vaccine rates are high so this is our reward! We are dressing up :D I haven’t been in years!

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Reading on the porch I looked up to see a hawk fly right down my driveway, not 50 feet away. Close enough that I could see coloration without my glasses. Close enough to the ground that I was looking down on him. (It’s hard to find images of hawks from above so I’m not really sure what kind he was.)

    8. GoryDetails*

      I live in New England so I can enjoy foliage season while just out and about doing my usual chores – but it’s also great to be able to take a spin up the coast, blending seascapes with the bright colors inland. And the weather’s finally at that nice mid-level, warm but not too hot, something we haven’t had for most of the summer.

    9. Colette*

      My patio stone arrived! (I ordered it 3 weeks ago, a week ago I found out it would be delayed until spring so I chose another one, then went back and forth with the sales person until Thursday.) Hopefully the giant pile of mud will be out of the yard soon!

    10. WoodswomanWrites*

      Someone I know recently published a novel. I wanted to support her as well as my local bookstore where it’s offered so I bought it. I figured I’d give it away if I didn’t like it, but it turns out it’s a wonderful book. I had no idea she was so talented. Plus I’ve been reading only nonfiction for ages, and I’m realizing how much I enjoy fiction and I’m going to be reading more.

    11. voluptuousfire*

      There’s an America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks’ Country marathon this afternoon, so watching that while also making pot roast and mashed potatoes. Also finally ordered my first enameled dutch oven. Been eyeing one for a year and saw one on sale for a good price in a pretty denim blue color. It matches a creamer/sugar bowl set I have.

    12. ampersand*

      First real cold front of the season hit yesterday! It was a lovely 55 degrees this morning when I was out on a walk. Such a nice break from the usual oppressive heat and humidity.

    13. Frankie Bergstein*

      A few of my colleagues gave me really, really positive comments about my working style and work itself — that I’m really good at hearing people, running my team / delegating, respecting others’ time, that I’m super organized, that I’m super detail oriented, that I’ve handled some recent sticky situations well. It felt so affirming. (I realize that this joy is a work-related one, though!)

    14. the cat's ass*

      I’m so grateful for everyone who starts and adds to the little joys thread!

      DH and I celebrate our 32d wedding anniversary tomorrow. And we still like each other most of the time!
      Little neutered cat is getting so chill and affectionate post chop.
      DD is adjusting well to the first phase of braces even though she misses “crunchy.”

      1. allathian*

        Seconding this! Even a short ride makes it so much easier for me to focus during the afternoon.

    15. something*

      We finally discovered a kind of wet food the cat consistently likes! It’ll be much easier to give the spoiled little princess her medicine now, lol.

    16. AGD*

      I was walking down a sidewalk earlier today and there was a father pushing an unhappy little toddler in a stroller. The kid was crying, but then he saw me and stopped crying and said the most adorable little “hi.” The quiet lasted them another 5-10 feet of walking in the opposite direction, and then the kid started again. I basically couldn’t stand how cute it was.

    17. Laura Petrie*

      It’s our wedding anniversary today. Yesterday, we went out for a lovely meal and some drinks. We’ve hardly been out during Covid times so it was such a treat.

      I made a lovely veggie lasagna with fennel and courgette, just finished the leftovers.

  6. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I noticed two of the graphics were changed recently on the right of the screen (how to get a job, free guide).
    Are the resources also recently updated?

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I don’t think so. Alison was embarking on a visual overhaul of the site. I guess she started there!

    2. Might Be Spam*

      Whoa! This morning the site looked as usual and just now, it looks really different. I liked the old way, but this looks good too. I was just startled.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How is everyone’s writing going? As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing.

    Small bits of outlining here and there is all I have the time and energy for at the moment, but at least it looks like this will be the most outlined project I’ve ever done.

    1. Never Nicky*

      I’ve been asked to contribute to a new edition of the leading textbook in my field. Huge honour etc but a bit intimidating so I’m researching and planning! Like you, lots of outlining!

      1. heckofabecca*

        Oh my gosh, mazal tov!!! That’s incredible! (What’s the subject, if you’re comfy sharing?)

    2. heckofabecca*

      Not sure if this belongs in this thread or the gaming thread, but I’ll stick it here XD I’m working on writing up some of my D&D homebrew work so I can share it with others (hopefully eventually for money), and I’m having fun! I’m incorporating some of the art I’ve done (if interested, my D&D insta is r_badesigns).

      I’m wary that I’ll be able to make this comprehensive, but it’s a fun project for Shabbat!

    3. RagingADHD*

      I mentioned last week or the week before that I’d taken over a project from another writer who had no discernable process and left a roaring trash fire behind them.

      Once I got my hands on the original interview audio & transcripts (which the other writer deleted and had to be retrieved from archive), I was pleased to discover that the material itself is very straightforward and easy to understand. Each interview is highly focused on a single topic, which the expert covers thoroughly.

      There are about 10 chapters’ worth of material, and I created a logical flow. Why the other writer chopped it up into 18 chapters and arranged them in totally random order, I have no idea.

      For example, if it were a book on starting a knitting club, the other writer started with pricing yarn, then why knitting clubs are fun, then how to fix knitting mistakes, then organizing group meetings, then how knitting clubs benefit the community, then meeting other knitters.

      Where it should be: why it’s great, then getting the people organized, then practical details about the actual knitting.

      So much less headachey!

    4. mdv*

      I’m on the final push of the final project for my first graduate school class (8 weeks), which is due Tuesday. I’m about 60% done with fleshing out the details and outlines into final text, and hoping to be 90% done by the end of the day!

  8. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week? As usual this is not limited to video games so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want to, including phone games and board games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.

    Other than some Stardew Valley here and there to relax I haven’t had much time to play, but if anyone here has Metroid Dread I am curious to hear your thoughts about it.

    1. twocents*

      Starting on Atelier Firis today. I’m hoping to wrap up both it and the last of the trilogy I got in the eshop so that I can jump back into Animal Crossing on November 5. The new DLC and game updates look fantastic.

      In the meantime, I’m debating if I restart my island or nah.

    2. Finny*

      I’ve been bouncing between Asha in Monster World, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Goblin Sword, and Monster Boy, all on Switch. Yes, I love 2D platformers. I think I’ve played Asha and the Shantaes about twenty times each at this point. Comfort gaming for me means repeat gaming.

    3. The Dude Abides*

      Have thoroughly enjoyed playing Historic since the update. Struggling to get back to mythic, but not sure which way to take the deck

    4. something*

      Although there has been some (fair) criticism of later Ace Attorney games, I’m excited to start the DGS localization this weekend. (insert obligatory “where is English AAI2” whining)

      1. twocents*

        Report back! I’ve been eyeing the Great Ace Attorney, though I’ve never played any in the series before.

    5. SparklingBlue*

      Been playing Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age (Switch) to pass the time waiting for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond.

    6. LimeRoos*

      Eeeee Metroid Dread – I started playing it because I love Metroid, but paused because I hate running from the EMMI’s. However, it has amazing reviews, and I can confirm the graphics and gameplay are just gorgeous and seamless. My friend is really enjoying it too, and told me to try again lol. If you like Metroid, you’ll probably enjoy it. It is cool to get such a smooth 2D platformer and there’s some really cool new moves Samus does. I wrote a bit more last week too, same handle but posted Sunday because that’s when I get time to read this thread.

      Played Mario Party online with 2 friends last night and we were not expecting how great it was! No lag, mini games were so fun, definitely surprised by how great it was. Will play online again, it’s up to 2 people per console which is pretty good.

      ACNH – free updated and $ DLC 11/05!!!! SO STOKED. Cafe, boating tours, outdoor market at Harv’s, Gyroids, group stretching, and other fun stuff. But then… wow the DLC. You basically make an archipelago resort by customizing homes for people and the island’s buildings. It looks so fun and silly and so many new customization features! Walls, pillars, counters oh my.

    7. Smol Book Wizard*

      Still emotionally recovering from the Crimson Flower route of FE: 3H. I’m going to do Azure Moon next, I think! I’m giving my wrist and my feels a break. :D

    8. Teach*

      My 22 year old came home from college to play Metroid Dread on his little brother’s Switch this weekend. He finished it, and was very pleased! Partly he enjoyed playing a new game in the franchise he loves best, and partly he felt the game and new moves for Samus were well-designed.

  9. Classical Music Nerd*

    Rubber bands that last a long time? I’m a classical music nerd so I (still) collect lots of classical CDs and I use rubber bands to keep all the discs-in-jewel-cases of Violinist A separate from those of Violinist B or Soprano C. But after a few months or maybe a couple of years they always seem to dry out and break! (I’m not looking for heavy-duty ones as opposed to long-lasting; in other words I don’t need ’em to withstand a lot of stress, just do the regular job for a long time.) Also open to suggestions for a better trick than rubber bands . . . . Thank you and I love AAM, long time lurker.

    1. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I, too, was thinking of other materials. Because I sew, I was thinking you could use thin strips of jersey (t-shirt fabric) sewn into a circle or even just with the ends tied together–that’s what we used for the bands around the ears on self-sewn masks. It let’s you set the size to your needs better than pre-bought stuff. Jersey is cotton (or other material) with a little bit of elastic in it and it doesn’t fray like woven fabric does. It won’t have the huge give like a rubber band, but it has plenty enough for a lot of things. You could buy a bit of good fabric or even just cut up a t-shirt, although those might be stretched out a bit already.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Or just get a length of elastic from the sewing/craft store, and knot it into small loops? You want the fabric woven/covered kind that’s used for waistbands/trims etc, not the straight rubber kind.

    2. PollyQ*

      Velcro straps? Using “dividers” made of card stock instead of physically wrapping the CDs together?

    3. Pennyworth*

      Hat elastic. Its like stretchy string, you just cut it to the length you want and knot it. I’ve had some for years and it hasn’t perished.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Nothing useful to suggest. I just am wondering where you put your recording(s) of Brahms Double Concerto? In any case, props for your level of nerdiness.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      An idea from my archive days–consider cotton tying tape. Not adhesive, just a thin woven strip like a heavy no-slip ribbon. It’s used to tie covers onto damaged books until they can be repaired, and to group small sets of documents that are going to be bound together. Our supplies came from Gaylord but the material is also used in sewing so a craft store should also have something you can check out in person.

    6. Lazy Cat*

      Archivist here, rubber bands will pretty much always decay and fall apart (and in some conditions, they might stick to the cases). The idea of cardstock dividers is an excellent one, or something fabric-based.

    7. RandomInfo*

      If you haven’t already, try non-latex ones. The are more resistant to drying and breakdown from ozone.

  10. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Crochet – learning how

    I want to learn to crochet. My goal is to eventually be able to make a cardigan out of granny squares. I have hooks and spare yarn. Any good resources for learning crochet for a beginner?

    1. Not A Manager*

      Try the website New Stitch A Day. Start with chain stitch, then go to single crochet and double crochet. Then look at his granny squares. Also google “granny square” and you’ll find other patterns as well. When you come to a stitch you don’t know, go back to New Stitch A Day to learn it.

    2. Weegie*

      Look at the Bella Coco videos on YouTube. They’ve got everything from granny squares upwards and take you through every step in very clear detail.

    3. Lifelong student*

      The Crochet Crowd dot com- fantastic resource and hundreds of videos. Also Facebook pages

      1. James*

        THANK YOU!! They had a patter that I’d been trying to figure out for a while now. Basically, it’s nested squares rotated so that the corners of the inner square are touching the middle of the edge of the outer square. I want to make my son a lap blanket using it. All my kids hate the cold, so I’ve made them lap blankets for the cars (keeps me out of trouble when I travel, and gives me something to do while watching TV). Every time I’ve tried this pattern it’s gone…wrong. Like, one sort of went non-Euclidean on me. I’m still not sure how.

        I’m on a long stint on the road, so once I finish my other project (gambison), I’m going to start this.

        I know it’s absurd, but this is making me unreasonably excited. :D

    4. Aqua409*

      I went to a local yarn shop that had beginner classes. I would check in with a local shop and see if they do anything like that for crocheting.

      1. Baby Maybe*

        Yes, seconding this – or if they can’t help you ask to be put in touch with the local knit night and ask them if anyone will help (don’t presume upon knit night… ask). I found crochet almost impossible to teach myself (ymmv!) but had it after a five minute tutorial.

    5. James*

      No resources, but I have advice: Keep going. Your first projects are going to look pretty rough, and that’s okay! You’re learning. There are a lot of little tricks–how you hold the yarn to maintain tension, if/when to switch hooks, how to keep track of stitch count, and a bunch of other stuff–and there’s no way to know it until you do it, because it’s all individual to you.

      I’d also suggest starting small. It’s easier to feel like you’re doing something when you’re completing a project in an hour than when you spend six weeks on a blanket. When I started my sister and I made dice bags for D&D–fast, easy, and useful.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Keep Going – Yes! Similarly, my favorite yarn-working tip for newbies (I’ve been crocheting since I was 4) is this: It’s string. You have scissors AND thumbs. It cannot defeat you. :) Be the master of your string. Your GOAL is to tie it in knots, you just have to find the right ones :)

      2. MissCoco*

        Along the same lines, I highly recommend washcloths as a starter project. Cotton yarn can be relatively cheap, and even if you end up with a sort of wonky trapezoid, it can go in the rag bag and get used for cleaning. Once you get reasonably good, they also make good little gifts

    6. RagingADHD*

      The actual techniques are very simple, and the most important things to learn are

      1) to find which method of holding the hook and yarn are most comfortable for you. There are several, and they all work just fine.

      2) how to see the parts of the stitch so you know where to put the hook through,

      3) how to read a pattern.

      Once you get the hang of those, it’s all practice and muscle memory to be able to handle the yarn & hook and keep consistent tension.

      IME, once you learn crochet it’s quite easy to learn the “pickup” or “continental” style of knitting (or vice versa) because you hold the yarn in your non-dominant hand and move the working needle very similarly to a crochet hook.

      I learned basic knitting (American or cast-over style) and crochet as a kid, but stuck with crochet. After so many years, when I tried to pick up knitting again I found the American style really awkward, and I can go much faster in Continental.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        As a side note to the two knitting methods, if you learn both ways, it makes two color knitting a snap. put one color in you right hand and knit it American, and the other color in your left and knit it Continental.

    7. PT*

      My library offers the website Creativebug for free with your library card. It has tutorials for arts and crafts like sewing, painting, crochet, etc.

      Also, the store Joann Fabric’s website has a lot of good free arts and craft tutorials on it, too. (Some of them are also really bad, so you do have to be choosy. But they do allow comments, and often someone who’s more experienced than you has found the part where the tutorial is unclear and offered up a fix in the comments.)

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A lot of libraries will host craft sessions, or did prepandemic. Neighborhood groups also exist; ours has a regular schedule in a park for summer, and a Facebook group where we will publish the winter location.
      One no-impact way to practice, get cotton yarn to make washcloths and face scrubbies. I’m churning out little rounds right now for makeup removal pads I can wash & reuse. ( I’m getting a lot better at starting a circle.)

    9. OlympiasEpiriot*

      If you are someone who prefers illustrations to video (like me, I get irritated with videos as i have to fuss with the playback speed or start/stop too much), I recommend an oldie but goodie: America’s Crochet Book, by Gertrude Taylor, pub. 1972 and available for 4 bucks on BetterWorldBooks dot com

      I have to relearn how to knit or crochet about every 4-5 years and I got this and the Knitting twin book to it a long time ago and they haven’t let me down yet.

    10. Crocheted Familiar*

      Here’s how I started learning and hopefully there will be applicable things in here for you.

      I learnt a few basic stitches (in UK terms, these were chain, slip stitches, and double crochet for me) and then I identified a pattern I wanted to follow and looked up new stitches or new terms online – just Googling, and then clicked on YouTube or photo tutorials, whichever I felt was easier to follow for that stitch – as I went. I started with making really simple stuffed animals, like small amigurumi octopuses, that were fast to make, and then moved onto more complicated (but still beginner-level) ones after I’d made several of the first. Having something I was actually making rather than just having something I was practicing really helped me stick with crochet and not just give up because I was bored of practicing.

      My main pieces of advice would be these:
      1. Crochet tension is generally not meant to be super tight. If you’re really holding onto the yarn you’re working with and it’s difficult to get your hook into stitches, try holding onto the yarn less tightly and just let it run through your off hand without being actively slack.

      2. Identify whether you’re learning with UK or US terms, because they’re slightly different. If a pattern has single crochets (sc), it’s in US terms. Usually the pattern will say which one they’re using, too.

      3. Practice by making things you’re interested in. It’s a lot easier to stick with something if you’re not bored by the process of getting better at it right at the start.

    11. Gatomon*

      I just started learning a few months ago. Honestly I did some basic internet searching and then just went to the craft store, got a small set of common hooks and some cheap yarn to make a simple scarf. I restarted that scarf about 10, 11 times before I finally got the hang of what I was doing (and it’s still a mess due to my tension not being even) but I learned a ton! There are articles to describe pretty much every stitch out there, and many also have videos attached. Reading a pattern has been the hardest part so far, but I (now) have tons of yarn leftover that I just start the project on to get a feel for what I’m doing and if it looks right to ensure I’m understanding the pattern properly.

  11. William Underhill*

    I do like the cat pic… I ought to have grabbed a snap of mine being a blanket burrito. If I catch her at it again, I will.

      1. Aqua409*

        That’s what we used to call it when I had to give my cat subq fluids. We’d wrap her up in a purrito.

        1. William Underhill*

          Both of mine are blessedly not fighters when it comes to fun things like pills or trimming claws. The most I get is some mewping… more pathetic little noises than anything like a warning and definitely no actual struggle with all scimitars bared.

  12. Ria*

    Any stories from anyone here who met their life partner in their late 30s or beyond? I have been single for six years now and sometimes fear it’s too late.

    I would rather be single than in a bad relationship, but I am still feeling very tired of going it alone. Meanwhile everyone I meet seems to be married, partnered or unsuitable.

    Rationally I know people do meet in their late 30s, 40s and beyond. But it can be hard to not be impacted by the the negative narratives about what it means to be a single woman who is no longer very young.

    It’d be nice to hear people’s positive stories about finding real love.

    1. Love is Ageless*

      It’s not too late! Hang in there. I met my husband when we were both 35, and got married at 37. I kissed a LOT of frogs before I found him, was horribly betrayed by a prior longtime boyfriend, and never thought I’d find the right person. Also, a relative got married for the first time at 62.

    2. Barbara Eyiuche*

      I met my husband when I was 40. We got married seven years later and are still fine. We were both foreigners living in Taipei at the time.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      I met my partner in 2012 when I was 35 and he was 45. He’s just made me breakfast in bed which he does every weekend.

    4. Lirael*

      It’s coming up 4 years since I left my ex and I’m 45, so I’m here for solidarity.

      FWIW, I do think it’s statistically unlikely we’ll be single forever.

    5. Semi-Anon*

      I met my husband in my mid 30s, after years of being very single, and it was worth waiting for the right person.

      One advantage of meeting someone at an older age is that you can have a better sense of who you are and what you want out of life, so when you actually do meet someone compatible in the important things, it can really click.

      However, mid 30s wasn’t too late for love, but it did turn out to be too late for children.

      1. matcha123*

        I read this a lot, but I guess it depends on the person. I have never had any goals for relationships other than to be in one with someone that I like being with.
        I’ve found that doesn’t make men happy. They want to know my life plans.
        Do I want to live in this country forever? Not really, but depends on the person and my job.
        Do I want kids? Pretty hard pass on that one, but might be willing to reconsider depending on the guy. But probably not.
        Etc., etc.

    6. allathian*

      I met my husband when I was 33, so mid- rather than late 30s. But before I met him, I was single for 8 years and despaired of ever finding anyone, because I’m very bad at casual dating. If I know the guy’s also seeing other people I really can’t relax and just enjoy spending time with him, so online dating when I tried it really didn’t work for me at all. I met my husband through my friend, who happened to be work friends with one of my husband’s friends. This was perfect, because the relationship was far enough removed that if it hadn’t worked out, we wouldn’t have been running into each other at social events, because our social circles don’t overlap at all otherwise.

      A good friend of mine was 39 when she met her now fiance, I met him for the first time at her 40th birthday party. Both of them have children from previous relationships, and my friend was adamant that she didn’t want to deal with another baby (even if she’d been able to get pregnant), so she dated a number guys before she found one who was enthusiastic about not having another baby. His kids are in their late teens and live with them every other weekend and part of every vacation, hers are in elementary school and their dad died a few years ago so there are no coparenting issues there.

    7. Expiring Cat Memes*

      From a cis-het perspective, I personally found that there was a weird stage-of-life thing going on between 30 to mid 40’s. It seemed like everyone in that age bracket was either already settling into family life, divorcing and on the prowl after settling too early into family life (and usually full of ex baggage), or desperately trying to find someone to settle into family life with (and not being all that discerning about potential partners).

      As someone who wants to remain child (incl. step-child) free, and who needs to share a deep mental connection with my partner, I was pretty disillusioned with how shallow so many of them came across. I need a partner who thinks more of me than “you’re not my ex/you’re of tolerable attractiveness, so therefore you’ll do!” Like really, the other 99% of who I am and who you are doesn’t matter?

      But Mr Memes was out there, just as disillusioned, and the relationship we have now is 1000% worth whatever bullshit came before. When I consider our relative eccentricities, it’s kind of amazing to have found that one-in-a-million man really. After almost 10 years, we still have the kind of intense connection that other people seem to notice and remark upon. An owner of one of our regular dinner haunts recently mentioned how lovely it is that we always come in holding hands and that we spend all dinner talking to each other. And I guess I take for granted how much we do adore each other’s mind and company. Today for example, just a regular Saturday, we spent half the day in bed snuggling, talking and having mind blowing sex. Then we followed it up with a drawn out champagne lunch. It actually sounds really corny when I read that back to myself! But that’s our life together. Our relationship is not without its challenges of course, and like every relationship it takes work. But it’s so worth it to have waited to find him.

    8. Anona*

      Doree Shafrir has a recent memoir out about this called thanks for waiting. She got married at 38. And had a kid over 40. Her whole thing is about being a late bloomer.

    9. Ali G*

      I met my husband at 33 and he was 37. We got married at 35 and 40! One thing that I noticed, it’s a lot easier for you to know if someone is going to work for you when you’re older and better know yourself. We got married quick, not out of desperation or anything, just because we were both like “yup you’re the one!” so why wait?
      I know people say this all the time, but for me it was true. I stopped trying and caring about meeting a partner. I had a successful career, great friends, owned my own home, got a dog and was having a good life. I decided that was enough and then of course my husband came along turned everything upside down :)

      1. twocents*

        This makes me feel so much better. I own my own house, have a dog, make good money in a stable career, and I keep finding guys spooked tf out and sometimes almost angry/defensive that I probably make more than they do and “I could own a house if I wanted to” or whatever. It makes trying online dating a slog since I can’t easily weed out who is going to be a big baby about who might make more.

        I do feel you on the knowing faster though. At least the guys I have tried wasted 1-3 nights of my time, not 1-3 years.

        1. Ali G*

          One of the reasons I decided to give up caring about finding a partner was due to online dating. I hated it. It was so much work and had very little pay off for me. I didn’t have any successful first dates.
          I met my husband drunk as a skunk at a bar. He was on a bachelor party bar crawl for his friend. That friend ended up performing our wedding ceremony!
          Also those guy are weeding themselves out for you. Gawd how insufferable to be intimidated by a successful woman in 2021. My husband was thrilled he met someone with an ambitious career. He wasn’t looking for a dependent, he wanted an equal. Hold out for an equal!

        2. Angstrom*

          As a (older)guy, I’m sorry you have to deal with jerks intimidated by a happy, independent woman. From my perspective, having someone say “I don’t need anyone…I have choices…and I want you in my life” would be a huge compliment.
          My wife and I have both seen our incomes fluctuate over the years with moves and job changes. One adapts.
          There are good guys out there. I wish you continued happiness alone and eventual happiness with a partner if that’s your choice.

    10. Wrench Turner*

      I met my partner at 31 it’s been 10 years. It was just a random board game night in the middle of the week hosted by a friend. My partner was friends with their roommate. Being a generally anxious introverted person, I wanted to just go out and human a little for a change. So did they. They came out of the smokers’ room to join a group for a game not knowing the rules and apologized for making a mistake. I said “You’re cute so you can get away with it.” and apparently that was all it took. They were flirting with me the whole night (I had absolutely no idea) and after I left without saying goodbye (specifically to them) they found me online and asked me out. About a few months later invited me to move in. About a year later asked me to marry them. And here we are. It’s the family I always wanted and never had; someone I can be safe and comfortably, weirdly, imperfectly ME around and they feel the same.

      But before that it also took coming to a point in my own head, deep down inside, where I finally WAS comfortable with my weird imperfect self. The fear of ‘being alone forever’ vanished because I’m never alone. I have ME and I’m freaking AWESOME. Not perfect, not for everyone, but awesome, and learned to live in that skin for some time. Then it didn’t matter if I met anyone because I’m already complete and whole exactly as I am. And then I met my partner and it’s been one hell of a weird adventure ever since.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        I love your second paragraph so hard! : ) (Source: am old single person trying to be okay with it.)

    11. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My husband and I knew each other since our early 20s, but were both involved with other people and just friends with each other for the longest time. We both coincidentally got divorced within a couple of years in our 30s and – it sounds cliche, but we kind of started noticing each other in a new light at that point, haha.

    12. ObserverCN*

      I’m 40, and my boyfriend will be 39 in December. We met each other two years ago. It is possible :)
      It helps that we live in the Washington, D.C., area, where people tend to marry and have children later. It may be different where you are.
      Good luck!

      1. ObserverCN*

        We’ve also talked about becoming foster parents or adopting children if we get married, since I’ll likely be too old to have a biological child (which is actually fine with me). If not, we’ll be an awesome aunt and uncle.

    13. Magda*

      In my experience, this is more common in more urban areas, and more difficult in rural areas. When I lived in a remote place everybody was married and thought I was quite a freak for being single at my age. I also felt some distrust, like I might try to steal someone’s husband (“a single lady of reasonable appearance must be in want of a husband!!”). I moved to a city and found far, far more single people of mature age – second marriages, older parenthood etc are more common here, I suppose because people are in school so long and work in intensive fields. I know several people here who got married mid-forties now or were happily single in their 40s and 50s.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        I’m still in my 20s, and this is definitely a thing. A BIG thing I’ve also noticed as my friends have started to pair off is how much of a difference it makes to find coupled friends who are, like, normal about it. I’ve started slowly cutting ties with the “everyone is always trying to steal my partner” people, and the “I know we said we’d hang just the two of us but I invited my spouse anyway because we can’t bear to be separated for a single happy hour” people, and the “Oh my god you must be so SAD and LONELY, here date this random single guy I know who’s twice your age and lives three hours away” people. Pre-pandemic I had just gotten out of a several month relationship and was dreading having to be the ‘one single friend’ again, but being surrounded by supportive, normal people (even those who were in serious relationships/married!) made a huge difference to how it feels to be single, and now as I get back into dating it’s so much easier to focus on finding someone who clicks with me rather than feeling like I should settle for anyone who could be my +1 to couple-centric gatherings.

    14. bassclefchick*

      I met my husband when I was 40 and he was 38. In the laundry room of our apartment complex, of all places! We got married three years later and just celebrated our eighth anniversary! Neither one of us was really looking and we didn’t have any expectations at the start, but it worked for us. It’s the having/not having kids that was important. Neither of us has or wanted kids so it worked for us.

    15. Llellayena*

      I was single from the end of college until I was 37. I met my current partner at a New Years party and it took us a few years of dancing around each other to really connect (we only saw each other at New Years). We’ve been together in one way or another for almost 3 years and we’re moving in together next year! It does work!

    16. My Brain Is Exploding*

      My cousin and his wife met when in their mid-to-late 30s; neither one had been married before. They have been married over 20 years now, have one child, and are very happy.

    17. Anon sometimes*

      My husband and I met when I was 43 and he was 46. We were 47 and 50 when we married. It’s the best relationship and we still occasionally marvel at how compatible we are (particularly as we come from somewhat different backgrounds). Second marriage for both of us. I wasn’t planning to remarry and felt pretty much fine at the prospect of singleness, but sometimes you just find the exact right thing that you weren’t even expecting, you know? I feel so lucky, but it also reminds me that there’s more than one good path of happiness out there.

    18. Squirrel Nutkin*

      It did not work out for me, but I did know a nice doctor who had apparently given up on ever meeting the right person in her early 40s. She decided to concentrate on giving back through her career and went to work at a hospital in Haiti . . . where she met a wonderful Haitian doctor with whom she fell in love. They got married and had kids pronto, and their kids are adults now, and they seem truly happy together. Apparently, ya never know where you’re going to meet that lovely match!

    19. Texan In Exile*

      I met my husband when I was 41. I still like him. :)

      And my college roommate, 58, got married (second marriage, but still) last week to a lovely man she met a few years ago. I didn’t even know they were engaged – she just talked about taking a hiking trip in Utah and the next day, posted photos of the two of them on the rocks at Arches or Moab or wherever with an officiant, him in a suit and her in a beautiful long blue embroidered dress and announced that they had gotten married. (That’s the way to do it if you ask me.)

    20. cleo*

      I started dating my husband when he was 39 and I was 30 (so I was younger than you asked about but Mr Cleo was the requested age). We got married a year and a half after our first date and we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this month. It’s the first marriage for both of us.

      His family was ridiculously happy to meet me. Mine was ridiculously happy after they met him and saw how well he treated me.

    21. MeepMeep*

      I was looking for another woman, so a bit of a different experience, but I met my life partner when we were both 36. I’d given up on dating by then and decided to go on Craigslist to look for some fun instead. I picked the one ad that was spelled correctly.

      We’ve been together for 9 years now and our daughter is 5.

    22. ecnaseener*

      Not me, but my aunt met her now-husband in her 40s, and they didn’t fall for each other for several years after that. They’re married 2 years now and so sweet together!

      She hadn’t had a serious relationship since her 20s before that time, and she has always been an absolutely delightful person living a happy life on her own terms.

    23. Ranon*

      My dad and stepmom got married in their early 40s- his second marriage, her first. They’ve been together over 20 years now and are still wild about each other, it’s very cute. They met at a high school reunion of all places, so I guess you just never know!

    24. Filosofickle*

      Not exactly what you’re asking, but my ex and I met in our mid 40s and spent 4 great years. So, not a for-life partner but a partner in life for that time and 100% worth the time even though it ended. It was deep and good and affirmed for me this is still possible.

    25. Life happened*

      I did. I was mid 30s he was mid 40s. At those ages you’re both fully formed & know what you want. We’re both unabashed nerds. Strangely we both were staunchly anti child before we met each other but flipped like a switch when we met each other. We now have an amazing young adult & have been very happily married for over 20 years.

    26. feeling lucky*

      I gave up on ever being with someone around age 38/39, after my last attempt at dating failed within 3 months… Closing in on the end of my third year with the same man at age nearly 47, and couldn’t be happier, or feel luckier, that we connected. (Full disclosure: we had already been friends for 18 years when we ‘hooked up’ after his divorce, and then it turned into a whole lot more.)

    27. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      I met my wife in high school – yes, we are those people – but we didn’t get together until we were 36. We’re 44 now and we’ve been together for 8 and married for 7 and we often say that if we’d gotten together any sooner than we did, it’d have been a disaster and we’re so glad things gelled when they did.

      Your person is out there! :)

    28. Lindsay*

      My husband and I met when I was 27 and we didn’t get married until i was 33, which I understand isn’t too late but I had never had a boyfriend before him. So there’s hope!

    29. Liz*

      2 of my closest friends met just prior to 40 and married a couple of years later. She saw him in a play and really liked him and a mutual friend decided to set them up. They are both very happy and grateful to her.

      I actually don’t know that many people who settled down in their 20s. We were all far too young and stupid and most of our relationships were varying degrees of disaster back then. I remember a few friends who did, but I’d say over half of them are now divorced or clearly not getting along so well.

      I do think dating at a more mature stage of life presents more challenges. We are less spontaneous, more measured and discerning in our choices, which can sometimes feel like having fewer options. But I also think that makes us more likely to make good choices because we’re more self sufficient and less impulsive, no longer jumping at every exciting opportunity or desperately seeking someone to share the bills with due to being broke.

    30. Rebecca Stewart*

      Boyfriend met me in his early 40’s. We’ve both been through a first marriage and divorce and were a little traumatized in various areas, but we’re good, and we’re going to get married in ’22.

  13. Expiring Cat Memes*

    Ever have one of those hilariously quintessential “yep, this is where I live” moments?

    I was reading in bed, drinking a beer when I took a swig and had that sudden gag reflex as my brain registered a Not Liquid chunk. I spat out what I was expecting to be a fly… except, nope. Spider.

    Greetings from Australia.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      I’m now imagining a person looking rather startled with the legs of a huntsman spider sticking out of their mouth…

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        Ha! Thank goodness no, just a green jumping spider. Out of all the spiders, huntsmans are the ones that I truly can’t stand. Too big, too hairy, too fast, and they hide in too many weird places. Ask me why I’m drinking beer and haven’t searched the wine fridge recently…

        1. Eve*

          Given the range of spiders that are native to Australia, I’d have thought the huntsman is one fo the less worrying ones.

          1. Expiring Cat Memes*

            There’s really only 2 kinds of Australian spiders to actually be worried about: the funnel web and the redback. But they’re always in predictable spots and hang about in their webs, so they’re pretty easy to avoid. Unlike the adventurous huntsman, who, while not venomous, may surprise you by jumping out of your bathroom cupboard and running up your leg, hugging envelopes in your letterbox and saying g’day as you’re sorting through your mail, or hitching a ride in your car*. I have personally experienced each of those scenarios. Like I said, they’re too big, they run too fast and they hide in too many weird places. I’ll take a slow predictable redback, thanks.

            *That one was the size of my hand. Fun.

            1. My Brain Is Exploding*

              No. Nopity nope nope H NO! I am not sure if I can ever actually even VISIT Australia now.

              1. ampersand*

                Same. I think of Australia as a place that just really didn’t want to be inhabited, but humans have not taken the hint. So now everyone cohabitates and gets along well enough.

                I’m pretty sure all the species I fear most live there.

    2. KR*

      Ah! Stuff of nightmares. I’m in the tropics where the bugs grow big and it never gets cold, so I live in fear of centipedes. I will say trapping the little lizards is always a good time. I just want to get to them before my dog does and they do not get it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I HATE stink bugs. Not just because they smell, but the buzzing sound they make when they fly. I’d never seen or heard of them until I moved inland in my state. I once had one in a clean pair of jeans and didn’t know it. I felt a bump inside the pant leg. Assuming it was a ball of fuzz or something similar, I grabbed my pant leg from the outside to feel what it was. It was a stink bug, which I ended up crushing by accident. Once I smelled it I figured out it was a stink bug. It smelled so bad. Needless to say, I scrubbed my leg really good and changed pants. Now I make sure to shake out my clothes before putting them on.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          They’re actually a new invasive species in the US northeast.
          For me it was swimming in Long Island’s Peconic Bay, and seeing a snorkeler freaked out by an eel… I mean, that’s why they call it “eelgrass.”

    3. Laura*

      Ooh, I almost did that as a child with a mug of milk. I was about to chug it but noticed something black in the corner of my eye and put my mug down and there it was floating on the surface just looking at me. It was a long time before I drank any milk without eyeing it very carefully after that…

    4. CJM*

      I can relate, and I wish I couldn’t. I felt something wriggling in my mouth a few months ago after I took a bite of food. It was a live spider. I spat it out in disbelief and needed about a week to stop thinking about it. Gross!!! I absolutely hate spiders.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      The first time I brought my kids hiking when we moved back to the PNW (where I grew up) from Arizona. One got sap all over her hands and the other got her boots stuck in the mud

    6. RussianInTexas*

      I live in the very large metro area in Texas (not Dallas, this is important), and always tell people that no, people do not wear cowboy hats IRL, we don’t have horseback riding cowboys around, etc.
      Yesterday Texas decided to Texas at me. First, two men crossed the rather large, not at all rural road, on horseback, property, on green light, while I was waiting on my red. No idea where they were going or coming from, no parks around, or equestrian centers, or anything.
      And later a man came in to the restaurant to pick up his food, while wearing a cowboy hat. Shorts, tennis shoes, t-shirt, and the hat.

      1. Software Dev*

        I laughed too hard at “not Dallas” because my first thought before that was ‘well….Dallas…’

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Right? Dallas is a lot more cowboy town than Houston, where I am, we are a lot more international and a lot less “Texas”.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I had such an ‘this is where I live moment’ today. I was playing tennis and it was so dark and dank and drizzly that it was almost impossible to see the tennis ball. At 1pm in the daytime. I live in Northern Ireland.

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        There’s a solid population of urban riders in Houston, especially near Aldine – mostly black men that I saw. But you will occasionally see horses even inside the Loop.

    7. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      My husband and I spent part of the afternoon arguing about the average number of spiders a person consumes in a year. I read this to him, and the debate has sparked anew.

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      Last night on the Tube – a man playing Abba songs on a violin. Only in London!

      (For context, the Tube/London Underground/metro here has a number of slots in its biggest stations for buskers – they’re highly competitive and you have to audition, but you get some really good and unusual acts because of it. And it’s nice to have music as you’re going about your day.)

      1. Sc@rlettNZ*

        I lived in London for many years – the best busker I have ever heard was at Bank station playing Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello.

  14. Anon and alone*

    Is anyone here a fan of “Cole and Marmalade” on YouTube? It broke my heart when Cole crossed the Rainbow Bridge last Sunday. I think the cancer had spread.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, I love Cole and Marmalade. I was so sad to see Cole passed away. Considering I’d just lost my 17 year old kitty, I was a mess reading the posts.

    2. I take tea*

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I haven’t followed lately, for some reason, but used to love them.

  15. Loopy*

    Trying to get gift ideas across the board- thought this would be a fun way (apologies I may have actually since this here before but I can’t recall for sure!

    Most practical gift you ever received?
    Most unique gift you ever received?
    Most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?

    Please answer any of the above!

    Mine are:
    1. Tie between Costco Membership and Hotels.com giftcard (pre pandemic)
    2. One of those portraits where they combine a photo with some formal body/background (think a knight or noble)- but the photo was a non-releasable opossum I dearly loved at my zoo volunteering who had passed of old age (I never feel like zoo is quite the right word- they only take animals form rehabs that cant be released that need proper habitat and care from licensed professionals).
    3. Lindsey Stirling tickets (best show I’ve ever seen)

    Numbers 2 and 3 could pretty easily be swapped there.

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      1. My mom just got me AAA for my birthday! And my wife is getting my car detailed.
      2 and 3 are harder, as I’m not really a gift person. In terms of thoughtful, though, I recently met up with friends in the desert. One friend brought us all small care packages that included vintage scarves (different ones for all of us) and a mini Nivea, which was critical for the dry environment. So thoughtful!

    2. twocents*

      Practical: Turbie Twist. When I got it, I thought “really, towels?” but they’re so much better than a regular towel at pulling my wet hair up and away. When the ones I got wore out, I ended up buying more.

      Unique: When I took up running, my dad saved the bibs, medals, and extras they give you (like face tattoos and wrist bands), and made it into a shadow box clock for me. I don’t actually run much these days — one of my knees doesn’t like it right now — but it still serves as a reminder that I can do anything I put the mind and work toward.

      Thoughtful: Assortments of flavored hot chocolate. I LOVE hot chocolate, even in the summer. I got a bunch of blends one year from probably a small business? I remember the packaging and it was not like the ones you get at the store. They required I scoop more powder in, but the end result was better. Now I’m sad I don’t have any more these days, lol.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I am a hot chocolate obsessive and I rarely meet another! My favorite ever came from a local chocolatier who, I think, used up her scraps in the mix. Sadly, she’s not doing it any more. I also loved this amazing cream from Butterworks Farm in Vermont, which is no longer distributed outside of the northeast. But I soldier on chocolately.

        1. Pippa K*

          There’s a chocolate shop in Brick Lane (in London) that makes its hot drinks by shaving blocks of high quality chocolate while you watch. I haven’t been there since before the pandemic but it’s so delicious that it’s one of my recommendations anytime a friend is going to be in London.

    3. fposte*

      This is a great idea for a thread, Loopy; I’ll be taking notes too. These aren’t in ranked order, just coming to mind.

      A small commissioned painting of my house (I love my house, and I really like the idea that I’ll have this when eventually I move out)
      Gift certificates to art galleries I haunt online
      Subscription to a streaming service I meant to try but never quite got around to

    4. James*

      1.) My dad once gave me an engineering book with all sorts of information in it. It’s got sections on various equations that frequently pop up, sections on geological formations, sections on how much stress various steel beams can handle, sections how calculating flow rate from pipes based on how high the water is–basically with this book someone could re-start civilization. I’ve used it a surprising number of times at work. Sounds kind of sad, but it’s the way Dad and I work. We don’t share a lot of common interests, but we can talk about work, and he can help me out in ways I don’t know I need help in yet.

      2 and 3.) My mother crocheted me a black dragon banner. I’m a giant nerd, and have taken the black dragon as my heraldry–I know it’s taken (like 60 times over), but it’s just a personal thing, not registered with any heraldic college, so screw it. Anyway, I remember unrolling it and just sort of freezing for a while. I had no idea she was doing it, no idea she even knew about the whole black dragon thing. I’d never spoken to her about it; apparently my sisters informed on me. It remains one of my most prized possessions.

      Alternate answer: Two rocks from my grandfather’s hog yard. I was in college studying geology, and they gave them to me as a joke (my grandfather had a different, “real” gift). I was the only one who didn’t get the joke. I loved it! Fine-grain sandstone and a true siltstone; I was studying siliciclastic sedimentary rocks at the time, and hadn’t seen hand samples of either! The rest of the family were somewhat taken aback by the fact that I was genuinely happy to get these rocks.

        1. James*

          Type in “Pocket Ref” in Google and it’ll come up. It’s not much of a title, but if you work around engineers it makes sense.

    5. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Most Practical — from ex-girlfriend: little food storage containers with attached lids. I think the company’s called “Mr. Lid.” No more searching for missing lids!
      Most Practical and Thoughtful — from myself to myself for the holidays: a tub tray that can hold a book and a glass of something. I !@#$@!#$ing love reading in the tub.
      Most Thoughtful — from some distant relative to teen me: a gorgeous angora sweater that I would never have bought for myself but that made me feel like a million bucks every time I put it on.

    6. Texan In Exile*

      I don’t like wearing rings and I hated the short trash can my husband had before we got married. I admired my friend’s expensive, foot-pedal Simple Human trash can. My husband got that for me instead of an engagement ring. (And we took a trip to Paris.)(And he paid full price for the trash can because after six months, it had not gone on sale.)

      A former boyfriend got me a belt sander, which I love and have used many times.

      I contrast those to the cheap pressed-wood nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds that my husband’s mom bought for us. She thought we needed them because there was absolutely nothing like that in our house, which I guess could be interpreted as the need for such an item but could also be interpreted as a lack of desire for such a thing.

      Anyhow, she was very very offended when we returned them. She retaliated by sending us a potted Meyer lemon tree, which needs temps above 70 degrees and 8 hours of sun a day, neither of which are possible where we live.

    7. No Tribble At All*

      Awwww this is a cute thread. For most thoughtful, I’d say: a Swiss Army knife engraved with my name. Mr. Tribble went to Geneva for a conference (this was pre Covid) and got it for my birthday. I’m an engineer, and he knows how proud I am of that & how much I like tools, which no one ever got me as a kid b/c no one gets girls Swiss Army knives. Plus, I have a unique name, so I’ve only once found a souvenir with my name on it. He got it custom engraved by the official makers, and I cried when I opened it.

      Now every time I need to open a box, etc, I’m like wait let me get MY Swiss Army knife!!! It delights me.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          He is ^_^ when we first started dating he was really bad with gifts— he found it very stressful & would just ask me what I wanted. So the fact that he thought of it all on his own, got it months before my birthday was sooooo sweet

      1. Dream Jobbed*

        I was a huge MacGyver fan (the original series), so I was a girl that got Swiss Army knives for gifts. People laugh at you carrying one – until they need it. :D

    8. GoryDetails*

      Most practical gift you ever received?

      Technically, that would be money; once my folks retired they gave my sibling and me nice fat checks as a “pre-inheritance” present.

      Most unique gift you ever received?

      Ah, that one’s got to be the Kenya/Tanzania safari. Some very well-off friends decided they wanted to spend a couple of weeks there and thought it would be fun to bring family and friends, and sprang for almost 30 people to go and see the wildlife (got to pet a baby rhino and its warthog companion!), the scenery (awesome), drive over some of the worst roads I’ve ever experienced (wry grin), and be fed amazing food as compensation for all those rutted roads. The friends who did all this are gone now, and sorely missed, but the memories of that trip remain.

      Most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?

      My sister and my best friend conspired to replace a beloved Steiff stuffed toy that I’d had since I was two; it got demolished by a roommate’s dogs during Christmas vacation in college. The Steiff company had re-issued that particular toy a decade or so later, and they bought one and sprung it on me as a birthday surprise. Still get teary over that one!

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      Practical: my MIL gives me a pack of Costco wool socks every year. They’re so comfy and I don’t have a Costco membership so I really appreciate getting them.

      Thoughtful: my husband got me some wireless Bluetooth earbuds (also practical!). I never would’ve thought to ask for them but now I use them almost every day!

      Unique: I can’t help thinking of this as a euphemism for bad gifts lol, most of the things I’ve wanted/enjoyed have been pretty basic!

      1. the cat's ass*

        DH got me an entire year of batteries for my hearing aids for Christmas last year.

        Thoughtful: one of my oldest friends bought me really fancy kitchen towels which i coveted but never would have bought myself.

        Unique: one of those fake oil paintings of a victorian lady with my late kitty’s head subbed in.

    10. comityoferrors*

      Practical: my mom is the queen of practical gifts. I think the most practical was either the jumper cables for my car, or the air purifier because I have heinous allergies and live in SoCal, land of fires. I use the air purifier every day and hope to never need the cables, but I appreciate both of them.

      Unique: my dad was a long-haul truck driver, and he’d bring me back “painted ponies” (horse figurines painted/modeled by different artists IIRC). I’m pretty sure they were sold in truck stops in the Midwest, but I’ve never seen them so they’re unique to me.

      Thoughtful: my best friend knew that my partner and I have been spending all our time in our shared home office, and that the mess and the setup was driving me crazy. So they helped us organize and redecorate it. Now I have a beautiful, artsy wall as a backdrop for video calls, and we have a ceiling blanketed in string lights and fake vines, and my partner’s band banners are shown off away from my work-space but where we can both appreciate them. It’s a small room, but somehow now there’s a clear space for me, a clear space for my partner, and a space where our weird, silly tastes overlap and show our connection. It totally transformed the room for both of us, and made it a sanctuary for me instead of a place where I begrudgingly spent 10 hours a day unable to disconnect from work.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Unique, unexpectedly practical, AND thoughtful: I received a food dehydrator. It took me awhile for me to ‘get it’ : I hate tasting the sulfite in dried fruit, I had just gotten into camping, and i like puttering in a kitchen. The giver put those ideas together and gave me a way to make my own dried fruit. I’m still using it 30 years later.
      On another level, my brother realized one year that our elderly mom was keeping the thermostat low because of spiking fuel oil costs. So he gave her an extra fuel oil delivery. Golden!

      1. Observer*

        On another level, my brother realized one year that our elderly mom was keeping the thermostat low because of spiking fuel oil costs. So he gave her an extra fuel oil delivery. Golden!

        That’s beautiful.

    12. Fellow Traveller*

      For practical- my husband is always upgrading my electronics because i don’t like getting new devices.
      Not sure I have a “most unique”…
      For most thoughtful: i work in theatre and it’s common to give wine for opening night. But I don’t drink, so one beloved director gave me a huge hunk of Stilton because he knew I love stinky cheese.

    13. Rara Avis*

      Practical: a dustbuster. I asked for it; used it for the first time that very day (spilled goldfish crackers) and have gotten a lot of mileage from it.

      Unique: when I was little, my dad (biology professor) made me a Valentine in the shape of a heart. A biological heart.

      Thoughtful: a Squishable Cerberus. Best gift I ever got from a student.

    14. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Fantastic post idea!

      Most practical gift is a tie. When I got my first car, my dad gave me a portable battery jumper and a set of window visors (so I could leave my windows cracked without worrying about rain). Then when I first moved out on my own, my mom gave me a set of glass tupperware-esque containers and a few basic pieces of cast iron cookware. I still have a!l of those things and would immediately replace them if anything happened to them. It’s all so insanely useful.

      Most unique gift was probably a portrait session with a local photographer who specializes in a specific genre and film developing process. It’s not something I would have ever got myself or even thought I’d want, but it was a really fun experience and I still have all the photographs.

      Most thoughtful gift was a framed poster of an anime character from a not-very-popular series. It was my all-time favorite show for years and I identified strongly with the main character during a pretty rough time in my life.

    15. Blythe*

      I love this thread!

      1) Most practical: My family leans into “practical” gifts, so I have lots of examples. I got flannel bedsheets last year for Christmas and LOVE them.

      2) Most unique: This was also thoughtful. When I went to college, my mom put recordable voice buttons in the paws of a stuffed animal I was taking with me— she recorded herself reading me a quote, singing part of a lullaby, wishing me good night, and giving advice about sunscreen and hydration. It was QUITE a surprise when I first accidentally pressed a paw! A wonderful gift then and one that brings me to tears now that my mom is gone.

      3) Thoughtful: When I turned 18, my mom left two gifts for me to find first thing in the morning. One, the quintessential book on body health for people with uteruses (title escaping me) was labeled “For the woman you are becoming.” The other, a small stuffed dog, was labeled “for the child you will always be to me.”

      1. Can't think of a name today*

        LOVE the recorded message idea. Lost my mom at age 6, would have treasured such an item.

    16. Xenia*

      1. Two times now I’ve gotten good electric meat thermometers. Good kitchen equipment is something I like and instant read thermometers are my jam. The second one was because the old one broke at 4 years.

      2. Most unique: a possibly vintage Navy Peacoat, circa WWII. We can’t tell if it’s an original or a reproduction or what but it’s made of the real stuff—heavy boiled wool with a silk lining. Heavy as blazes but really good for windy days.

      3. Most thoughtful: every now and then, when I’m down, my mom will gift me a fancy chocolate. She can read me better than I can myself and getting a chocolate on a random day is a wonderful blues killer.

    17. Falling Diphthong*

      For 1, I’m going with the bath pillow my daughter got me. I quickly went from “Hmm, well, I’ll try it” to “Nope, gotta get out of the tub, I forgot my pillow.”

  16. Where is the brown?*

    I’d love some help with a niche crafting challenge! Does anyone know where to procure .7mm lead (for a mechanical pencil) in *brown*? The multi-color sets I’ve found don’t include brown. Thanks in advance!

    1. Squidhead*

      Google says that Amazon has it (made by Pentel). If you have a good art supply store you could try there/ring them first. (Probably not a craft supply store like Michael’s; I’m truly thinking of an independent art supplier.) Happy crafting!

      1. Squidhead*

        I searched for “0.7 mm lead brown” and the ad results show the product, just FYI since it seems like others might only be finding the 2.0 mm.

    2. Llellayena*

      Does it have to be .7 lead? I’m thinking of architectural drafting pencils which are lead holders that use thicker leads but the leads can come in various hardness levels. The harder end of the range can be sharpened to a very fine point (can equal your .7 leads). I’ve seen them in colors, though blue and red are the most common to find.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m getting the same results: 2.0mm. Easiest one to describe is a company called June Gold selling on Amazon.

  17. Gree*

    Does anyone have any advice for how to make friends in a new country? I moved to Saudi Arabia two months ago and I’m not doing very well at it. I meet plenty of people at work, and we all also live together on a compound, so in theory it should be easy to get to know people, but I just don’t seem to be making connections. I’m here on my own, so I really would like to build a social life, but I also tend to be a bit introverted and socially awkward. I’ve tried looking into expat groups in my area, but I live in a small town and they don’t seem to exist here. Any advice on how to make friends would be very welcome!

    1. Jo*

      Could you organize group activities in the compound? You could set up a social committee or something along those lines, and ask for volunteers to help with the activities. You could start a book club, for example, or organize visits to local landmarks. I think it might be easier to get the ball rolling with group activities, and then use that as a launching pad to identify people who have similar tastes and like the same activities as you do. I’ve also heard advice to just be bold and ask someone if they’d like to do a particular activity with you. Perhaps practicing with a script and preparing how you’d respond if they said no so that you’re not caught off guard would be helpful.

      1. Gree*

        Thank you! I think this is a really good idea. I had actually thought about maybe trying to start some kind of group activity. I think I feel a bit shy about doing this as a very new person, but I maybe just need to take the bull by the horns. Apparently, this sort of stuff did use to happen on the compound, but it all got stopped because of covid. Maybe there are others here who would also like this kind of thing.

        1. Jo*

          I always it find it easier to manage this sort of thing when I have a clear understanding of my role. I can give training to hundreds of people without a problem, for example, but I find it excrutiating to make small talk at networking events where I don’t have a particular “purpose”.

          I’m sure there are others in the compound who would love to get out and about and meet people as things hopefully open up again. Good luck!

    2. Teatime is Goodtime*

      This is SO dependent on where you are and the culture you are in. And it is so hard to know what to do standing on the outside of it. I know how you feel! I have been there. Well, not Saudi Arabia, but the feeling of loneliness that comes with trying to make friends in a palce where everything is new and unfamiliar, including all of the unwritten social patterns. It is hard work to try to make friends anyplace, but that adds extra layers of difficulty!

      I have no clue whatsoever if these ideas will be helpful where you are, but, at various times, they have been helpful for me:
      1) Ask. Seriously, if you get to chatting with someone at all, ask how they made connections with people. This works for coworkers, too. That will give you a lot of information that is very local to where you are, some of which may be useful. It might also clue that person in to the idea that you’re interested in maybe spending time getting to know THEM or OTHER PEOPLE THEY KNOW, while not putting them on the spot.

      2) Classes and other formal opportunities that throw you together with other people. A lot of times a single meeting wont get enough traction for a friendship, but multiple meetings will. If you have a structured activity, there’s plenty of fodder for talking and getting more comfortable on both sides. I often had especially good luck with language classes, I think in part because the people were already interested in learning about another culture and language. But really, anything will do as long as it is there. Board games. Book clubs. Volunteering if that is a thing where you are.

      3) Is there anything like a tourist office where you are? I know that sounds kind of silly, since you aren’t going to be their audience (you live there!) but in my experience the people who work at such organizations in anything other than big cities have an ear to the ground in a way that can be useful. If nothing else, they’ll have information for you about local cafes or places to go or see or do with your free time.

      4) Same question about a local library or public facing establishments like museums. Even religious establishments can be places to engage with people who are very local even if you are not that particular religion. Or universities!

      5) If you’re just going for getting to know people in your building, as opposed to groups outside where you live too, then is there some organization that manages your space that might be helpful? Or a place to hang up a notice that says “Hey, I’m new here! I would love to meet my neighbors. Want to come over and have [drink] and [food] and chat? If so, please [come by at X time] / [drop me a note] / [whatever]. Maybe have some conversation topics (see idea #1) handy so that you have something to fall back on if the person isn’t super talkative for whatever reason.

      6) One last idea for just your neighbors: can you knock on their doors to say hi or leave a note in their mailbox introducing yourself? A neighbor recently did this and it was lovely to just know his name and some beginning information about him. That made it easier to strike up a conversation in the hallway, in part because I knew he was at least superficially interested in some sort of connection with the people in the building.

      Hang in there and good luck!

      1. Gree*

        Thank you! I especially love the idea of language classes and I’m going to look into it. It might kill two birds with one stone as I don’t speak a word of Arabic at the moment and really feel like I want to do something about that.

    3. Zee*

      Look for an “American Expats in Saudi Arabia” facebook group, as they may have more country-specific suggestions.

        1. Isobel*

          One really useful thing about language classes is that often you are tasked with asking your fellow learners lots of questions – where do you come from, who is in your family, do you have a pet, favourite foods etc – so it’s a great way of getting to know people in a way that might seem weirdly intrusive if you were asking in your native language.

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      I’ve lived in the Middle East and found it easiest to make friends with other expats who had also just arrived. Expats who’ve been living in a place for a while usually have their friend groups already. The tricky thing about the expat life is that people tend to come and go quite a lot, so after a while those who are there for the long haul don’t want to get to know someone who might leave soon. However! I guarantee other new arrivals are just as lonely as you are and would be just as excited to make friends. Honestly, I met some friends just hanging out in cafes, sitting at a shared table with other foreigners who were also there alone.

      If you have any interest in learning Arabic, I also became friends with several of my language exchange partners. Even if your Arabic is currently minimal to nonexistent, that wouldn’t be a problem as long as you enjoy learning. Language exchanges are a great way to structure social time for those of us who are a bit awkward (I include myself in that).

  18. Loopy*

    I hope it’s okay to post two questions. I am stumped on how people do something. I want to look at very specific types of property/homes for sale and I have no idea how one would internet search for them. I’m not committed to buying, I just want to see what’s out there- so I don’t think a real estate agent makes sense.

    Something like finding a house surrounded by woods or land within 3 hours of me, preferably a cabin/cottage. I’m not looking for anything way out in the wilderness/remote, just not in a subdivision/neighborhood. Anything from 1-3 acres would be so great.

    Everything on zillow is (understandably) in neighborhooods or just land without a house. Do I just pick areas on a map and search by zipcode?

    1. Workerbee*

      I have had some luck putting keywords in the advanced search on Shorewest.com, where you can also narrow down by county.

      Otherwise, a real estate agent is a good idea as they have access to more information, including properties not yet listed. We weren’t charged for her time if that’s a concern. Ours found us the house of our dreams where we would never have thought to look.

    2. Meh*

      On the Redfin app you can pick a minimum lot size, that might help to narrow your search. There are probably realtors who specialize in the wooded/rural communities near you -especially if there’s a feature that makes the area desirable (lake, hiking, etc). Find them and search their website listings.

    3. NoName*

      I do sesrches on realtor.com by county with the criteria avaliable and then use google maps satellite and street view to see what the area around the property looks like.

    4. Ali G*

      Zillow tends to be better for niche searches. Use the advanced search and choose single family home, set your minimum acres, and you might even be able to search by county or zip code.

    5. Magda*

      This is easy to do in GIS (“Geographic information systems” – basically using software you can make maps and do analysis) but that’s not something the average person can use; I wonder if a sympathetic staffmember at your city or county planner can help – or might you know anyone who uses GIS for work? Land trusts do this but they aren’t likely to do it for you on staff time.

    6. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I think I would indeed make a list of possible zip codes and search that way, probably on multiple sites…but I also like doing my own research and I REALLY like being thorough. Housing search engines are also only as good, or as bad, as the information put into them. I’ve known several people who have gotten better deals or closer to their dream or otherwise benefited from finding properties that had been miscategorized or were otherwise difficult to find via the usual search engine limitations. But it really depends, I think, on how much time you want to put in and how much you enjoy the process itself.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Redfin allows you to save your search parameters so you don’t have to adjust the filters every time you look. They assign you a realtor but they’re salaried so you’re not wasting their time/costing them money by only casually searching, and you could either ask them for help finding places or just let them know you’re not serious right now and will get in touch if you ever want to check something out

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      I don’t know if this tool exists on other property websites, but Rightmove (I think) here in the UK has a function where you can draw a circle on a map and it will search for properties in that area that fit your criteria, so it might be worth looking to see if anything where you are offers something similar.

  19. IRA distribution (after death)*

    I have been researching this and am still a bit puzzled. We (the children) will be getting my parent’s IRA split among us. I would personally like to get a tax or estate person to help with my share so I don’t make a mistake or incur penalties. I am not the executor of the will and he doesn’t think we need a lawyer, so I am assuming I have to wait until we get the death certificate to get my own counsel. Can I just roll it straight into an IRA in my name and then get help with it?

    1. Lifelong student*

      CPA here. Under current law, if you are the beneficiary of the IRA you can roll the proceeds into an inherited IRA if you are not the spouse- but not into an IRA in you name. Under current law-and it changed a year or two ago- you have 10 years to withdraw the funds. When you withdraw, you will pay income tax on the amount withdrawn. You do not need an attorney for this- a CPA or financial advisor can help you understand the rules and the tax impact.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Right, so you’ll probably want to withdraw about 12% a year (to account for growth), but if you’re near retirement, say 5 years, you can wait 5 years and spread the withdrawals out over the remaining 5 years instead, when your earned income is zero. The only requirement is that it is emptied after 10 years, so yes, an advisor might be helpful in planning to minimize the tax impact.

      2. Pam Adams*

        Not an IRA, but a retirement account. I had them withhold money for taxes up front. It was an overage, and I did get a refund.

      3. ronda*

        my experience is from an ira with me and my siblings named as beneficiaries. I was not the executor, but I called the investment firm (Vanguard) and they told me what was required. One of us had to send the death certificate, and then each of us had to call to set-up the inherited ira account and transfer our portion of the ira. This part did not require an estate attorney, but my sister (the executor) did go to an estate attorney to get other necessary info, we all signed a document saying we agreed to my sister being excutor and the will. I think it was presented to the court and a “letter of testimery?” was issued that some folks required to distribute funds (ones mom did not have beneficiaries listed on)/ close accounts etc.
        each state has different rule, so exactly how you handle anything done by the will vs named beneficiaries on an account can be different in different states, so that is why you definitely need an estate attorney.

        For the taxes, it depend if the IRA is a traditional or Roth. If it is a Roth, it won’t be taxed when taken out, so it is best to take 100 % out in year 10 to get more tax free growth before it goes to a taxable account and starts generating taxable income (unless you need the money now, then take sooner). It is more likely to be traditional and you will pay taxes when removing $, so project your taxable income for the next 10 years and figure out if you expect to have higher or lower income in some year, and what tax bracket you expect to be in. Take out as much as fills up the tax bracket that you want to stay in and that you project will empty the account in year 10 without making that last year a high tax bracket year.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      The company/advisor where your parent’s IRA was held should be able to help with that. Typically, you would need to pass the assets into an inherited IRA and would take distributions from there. Different custodians (the bank or brokerage) may have different requirements. Many of them will require all beneficiaries to submit their paperwork before any distributions are made. You don’t need a lawyer, but it might be helpful to use a good accountant to determine if there will be any impact on your taxes.

      1. CJM*

        This matches my recent experience with my mother’s estate, which included an IRA that was split among her three children. I was executor (well, co-executor, but I did the heavy lifting) and worked with her financial advisor to transfer the IRA to Fidelity, but I bet we could have done everything with just Fidelity’s help. Fidelity then worked with us to split it three ways. All of the work was done online or by phone and mail. The initial transfer turned our mom’s traditional IRA, held elsewhere, into an inherited IRA at Fidelity. The split turned that inherited IRA into three individual inherited IRAs. (BDA was another term used.) Fidelity walked us through their process. First we three had to open three empty, individual inherited IRAs. Then I sent Fidelity a letter of instruction on how to split up the money (equally, but they needed that in writing with the four account numbers and names spelled out). It was a slower process than I expected, mostly because I had trouble getting Fidelity’s Transfer of Assets form. And some Fidelity representatives were faster and more helpful than others. But overall it went smoothly.

        So I really don’t think you need an estate lawyer for this. We had one early on, but he didn’t handle the IRA. Mostly he gave us an overview of the process and answered questions for estate-level issues like the EIN.

        I don’t know anything about possible penalties. Our CPA is working on the estate tax return next week, but she hasn’t indicated that the inherited IRAs will be problematic. I haven’t started withdrawing money from mine, but I expect I’ll have to be careful with that and consider how it affects my income and taxes.

        1. CJM*

          I should add that the estate-level IRA didn’t go away after the split. In fact, it accumulated a bit more money from interest and dividends, so I had to contact Fidelity a few weeks ago to make a final, three-way distribution to get that account balance back to zero. Now it’s sitting there empty.

        2. Girasol*

          My experience also. I was beneficiary on one of Dad’s IRAs and my deceased stepmom was on the other. That made them two different flavors of inherited IRA with different RMD requirements, both different from the RMD requirements on my own IRA. I talked to both my CPA and Fidelity about it and they both knew what to do. The accounts must remain separated because of the different draw down rates for each.

    3. Asenath*

      When my mother died, the IRA was split and rolled into new ones in each of her children’s names, and each child (all adults) dealt with it as made sense in their own individual cases – leaving their inherited IRA intact, cashing it in and using or reinvesting the money, etc. There were special tax issues for those of us who weren’t in the US, but even they weren’t anything a tax person in the 9ther country hadn’t seen before. Well, mostly. Some of them were pretty firm that their expertise didn’t extent to US funds in a US account, but that’s not your problem.

    4. Undine*

      You probably don’t need a death certificate, either. For all the accounts I’ve dealt with, I (executor & trustee) submit the initial paperwork and death certificate (or copy, lots of this is done by fax!) and addresses for the beneficiaries. Then the beneficiaries get forms which they fill out. There is a choice of boxes to tick, immediate distribution or distribution over 10 years. As others said, timing for taxes is really the question at that point. I don’t think I’ve even sent a copy of the death certificate to any of the beneficiaries.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I got the impression that the death certificate hadn’t been issued yet. The beneficiary doesn’t need a certified copy themselves, but there does need to be one.

    5. Anon in IL*

      My recommendation is start reading Ed Slott’s website irahelp.com. He a national expert on all things IRA. The law for inherited IRA’s recently changed significantly. He newsletter is well worth the cost.

    6. fposte*

      It’s actually simpler than it used to be, so that’s helpful for you.

      The portion of the IRA that goes to you will be retitled–not exactly to you, but more like You as Beneficiary of Parent (Parent’s name must be on the title). Any financial institution should know how to do this. Make sure you keep saying “*inherited* IRA” rather than just IRA to minimize any misunderstanding.

      The recent change in the law about inherited IRAs simplifies things–you have ten years to withdraw all the money from the account. There’s no need to calculate RMDs in this situation–you could take it all the tenth year if you wanted, though of course that might not be the best-case scenario for taxes.

      If your parent was over 70 1/2, you and the other beneficiaries will want to check to make sure the parent took their RMD this year; if not, you all will need to take the RMD calculated for your parent this year and pay tax accordingly. That can come in part from all of you or all from one of you–the IRS won’t care.

      FWIW, the IRS is legendarily forgiving on errors on inherited IRAs. It’s pretty common for the year-of-death RMD to be missed and taken in a later year, and generally they waive penalties when an explanation is submitted. So don’t worry too much.

      1. Lifelong student*

        Actually- the required age for RMD’s changed a few years ago. In 2019- it changed to 72. There is currently a proposal to change it again to 75. With tax things, the answer is generally “It depends”- and changes in the law happen all the time!

        1. fposte*

          You’re right–I remembered how the SECURE Act changed the inherited IRA rules and forgot about the RMD age–good catch!

    7. Girasol*

      I’d vote for talking to a CPA. When Dad left me (the only heir) two IRAs, the CPA who does my taxes told me what I needed to tell Fidelity (where my own IRA is) and Fidelity made sure everything was right. On one of Dad’s IRAs I was the beneficiary, and on the other, the beneficiary was my stepmother, who predeceased him. So although I inherited both, the legal situation turned out to be different. That made the Required Minimum Distribution rules different between each of them, and because they’re inherited, different from my personal IRA too. So now I have three small IRAs each running a different RMD schedule. The one thing I learned was that I definitely needed advice! I was ready to guess that an IRA is an IRA and jam them all together, which would have been a real mess.

    8. It happens*

      If your parents haven’t died yet, they can simplify this whole process by naming you and your siblings as equal beneficiaries. Could be contingent if the primary beneficiary would be the living spouse (in the case of the first to die.)
      When the first parent dies, the surviving spouse sends a death certificate and the account is rolled into theirs, making the children equal beneficiaries. When the second dies, the executor sends the death certificate and the company works with each child to set up the successor account that must be liquidated within ten years. Genuinely the easiest part of the estate process, no need to go through probate.
      Life pro tip- make sure to keep your beneficiaries updated on all of your accounts!

    9. IRA distribution (after death)*

      Sincerely—thank you all, so much! I feel loads better about handling what’s ahead.

  20. Remove smell from stuffed animal*

    I now have an heirloom stuffed animal that smells like decades of scented pipe tobacco! I’d love to de-scentify it but am afraid of ruining its cloth and stuffing. Is there a for-sure home method or do I need a stuffed animal doctor?

    1. Meh*

      Have you tried putting it into a sealed box next to a bowl of vinegar? That trick works for removing the smell of musty dresser drawers. But, if it’s treasured, I’d go the expert route.

    2. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      I’m a huge fan of Nature’s Miracle Enzyme spray. It’s intended for pet smells but it’s amazing stuff. Just spray a bit on the stuffie, on the bottom, see how the fabric holds up.

    3. CJM*

      Can you hang it outdoors for a few days? Maybe use a clothespin or two with a hanger and let it wave in the breeze. That’s how I got a funky smell out of a pretty jacket I bought online. I found the tip online somewhere, and it worked! I think the colder the weather, the better.

      1. fposte*

        I’ve had really good luck with this too. Definitely make sure it’s in the shade to protect colors, though.

    4. Lazy Cat*

      If you’re trying at home remedies (that involve putting something on the toy), just make sure you test an inconspicuous spot first! Also try to figure out what kind of material it’s made of – that may impact what is safe to use.

    5. Maryn B.*

      There’s nothing sacred about its stuffing if the value is entirely sentimental rather than monetary. (A collectible stuffed animal should not be restuffed.) While airing it out or enclosing it in a container with an odor-eliminating product might work, it seems unlikely. Tobacco smoke leaves a residue that can infiltrate pretty deeply. (Just ask anybody who’s tried to paint the walls of a house where a smoker lived for many years.)

      I’d probably spend time with a decent magnifier and a seam ripper, opening an inconspicuous seam on the underside, pulling the stuffing, and cleaning the “skin” by whatever means seems safe and effective, like hand washing and air drying. If any repairs are needed (like more firmly attaching eyes, ears, or tail), now’s the time. I’d restuff with the same material, only new, and neatly stitch it shut again.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        >Just ask anybody
        Oh yes. My bedroom has a ghostly smell of old cigarettes after several days where we can’t open a window. And it’s new plasterboard & flooring…that’s from the closets & built-in bureaus.

    6. Remove smell from stuffed animal*

      Thank you! I’m going to try a few of these remedies. Some outdoor time in the sun today and baking soda in a box tonight to start with.

  21. hugs*

    Wills! What kinds of arrangements do you make for a house (where I currently live) while writing a will. It seems like such a pain to will it to someone who would have to then sell it. I don’t have anyone close to me who needs housing (like a younger person). I live alone, am not close to family. Or is that just part of what happens when someone dies, whoever just will have to deal with it? How do you choose the whoever?

    1. Anona*

      I can’t speak to the estate aspect of things, but if you can do a pre clean yourself and get rid of/donate stuff that you no longer have use for (think: cleaning out the attic, garage, guest room, closets, etc), that is hugely helpful.

      After helping clean out two sets of grandparents’ houses, having to sort through 2-40 years of someone else’s stuff was the worst. Obviously if you are living in your house, there are things you want to keep with you while you’re living. But stuff you’re holding onto and not using- just let it go. Your family will be appreciative!

      1. Anona*

        Or another option is to downsize and move into a retirement community (but only if you want to!). That takes care of the big clean out, on your terms.

        The amount of things we threw away/thrifted I feel a little bad about, but when you’re dealing with someone else’s things, most of it is just… Stuff… and not meaningful/worth the hassle of selling.

      2. Filosofickle*

        One of my grandmothers spent the last decade of her life systematically clearing her house and making sure every single financial item was squared away in neat file folders. That was such an act of love. (She outlived two husbands so she understood the need, plus was a legal secretary so she had a leg up on the organization bit!)

    2. Southern Girl*

      I would look at it as a monetary thing, you are leaving the value of the house to whoever. There are plenty of agents who will take care of liquidating the house and contents for them. We had to deal with this when an elderly relative died hours from where we lived. (Found all kinds of odds and ends such as a box of silver coins among the junk.)

    3. Magda*

      Can you google your state to see if there’s a transfer-on-death option? Sadly, my state does not permit this, but some do, and INAL but I hear this is the simplest and easiest way to get this done.

      1. Undine*

        If you are doing a trust, you can put the house in the trust, and that also bypasses a lot of the probate issues. Then the successor trustee manages the sale. As others said, a realtor can help do a lot of the heavy lifting. As long as the executor or trustee is in the US, the closing can be done remotely, they just send a notary to your house at the end.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          We have our house in a trust for estate reasons. Our lawyer did the paperwork. This will save our executor time and trouble.
          I wouldn’t bother willing a house to anybody but maybe a charity. Let it be part of your estate and give bequests in percentages of the entire estate. That way, any changes in your estate between now and then will still reflect your intentions. When you will a large, expensive non-cash item to someone, the potential taxes on the inheritance might force a sale anyway.
          Side note: when I won a car, I had to pay $4000 in income tax UP FRONT to claim the car! And I wasn’t done paying. At tax time, I had to pay the rest of the 25% federal income tax and 10% state income tax. I often wonder about someone who wins or inherits a big non-cash item and has to decline it because they can’t afford the taxes!

    4. Asenath*

      My place will be re-sold whether I leave it to an individual or group of inviduals because, like you, unless something drastic changes, they all have their own homes. I figure they’ll just hire someone to sell it (and maybe clear it as well), and split the proceeds. I chose the ‘whoever’ as being the same small group of relatives who are very close to me and who are also getting whatever is left over after some other bequests. I have heard of people who leave houses to charity – not big histo houses, just ordinary ones that the charity has cleared and sells for money for their mission.

      1. Clisby*

        That’s what happened with my mother’s estate (my father pre-deceased her, and left everything to her.)

        Her will specified the estate was to be divided equally among her 6 children. The house was the most valuable part of the estate; my oldest brother was the exector, and he contacted a realtor and had it sold. Before putting it on the market, all of us got together and picked what we wanted to take from the house, and my brother donated the rest to the hospice where my mother died (they had a charity resale shop to benefit the hospice.)

        In case anyone wonders, we had no disputes over who got what. We started out by drawing numbers, 1-6. Starting with #1, you picked an item (we didn’t get all nitpicky about value of each item.) #6 drew last, so at that point we reversed the choices and went from 6 back up to 1. Then 1 back down to 6. That sort of evened things out. Nobody got in an argument.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am on my own, too.
      So far my plan is to go to a lawyer and line up an auction house to unload the contents and maybe even the house.
      I do have a dog and my friend said he’d take my dog. (He has a key and can just come get the dog.)
      I thought of leaving whatever proceeds to a local NPO.

      Don’t forget to do some funeral planning. I do have a space at a family plot and the space has a stone. So that is one or two less things someone has to figure out.

      That’s as far as I have gotten. I will be interested to see what others have done.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I talk to my clients about two main options. One, if you leave the house to someone, it’s up to them to do what they want with it. Maybe they’ll live there, maybe they’ll rent it out, maybe they’ll sell it. Depending on the state and what kind of property it is (I’m looking at you, Florida timeshares), they may or may not be able to live in the house (or rent it out) while your will is being probated, but they’ll still have to pay taxes, utilities, and any condo or HOA fees during that time.

      Two, another option is to direct that your executor(s) sell the house and then have the proceeds go into the estate or to one particular person, or into a trust for the benefit of someone or something, such as your favorite charity. When my child was still a minor, I went with the latter: I directed that the house be sold and the proceeds go into a trust that paid out half when they reached age 25 and the rest when they reached age 30. Now that my child is an adult, I’m directing that the house be sold and the proceeds go into the estate, and my child is the main beneficiary of my estate. (They don’t live near me, so leaving them the house outright and leaving it on them to decide whether to live in it or sell it, and then to deal with selling it, wouldn’t be the most thoughtful way for me to handle it.)

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        Glomarozation, Esq- Can I ask… in this case, are your children not the executors of your will? And (if it’s not too personal) how you chose who would be? I always thought that most people choose their children to be the executor of their wills (Both my parents and my husbands parents have). Our children are minors, so my parents ate currently our executors, but I always assumed we would transfer that responsibility to one of our children. Just wondering if there are other factors we should consider?

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Mr. Glomarization is my executor, followed by my lawyer. Your best choice for executor and back-up executor is someone who is:

          – younger than you, but not a super young adult,
          – living in the same state,
          – not a felon,
          – not broke, and
          – trustworthy and honest.

    7. fposte*

      For me, the house goes along with everything else in the tangible property. It’s all to be sold (aside from any specific bequests of items) and the proceeds divided among the beneficiaries. I’m working with my lawyer to put in language that explicitly allows for the executor to hire necessary services for that (and she’s also been informed of that) rather than having to do it all herself. There’s no sentimental family attachment to my house so they’d benefit much more from the proceeds.

    8. Texan In Exile*

      With Mr T’s parents, the house was just part of the estate. The money from the sale of the house paid off the mortgage and the remainder went into the trust for the grandkids.

      I echo those who suggest getting things in order.

      Please have all your files prepared so your executor knows where your bank accounts are – where the title to your car is (not in a manila envelope on the shelf of the guest room closet, please) – whether you have a safe deposit box or not.

      Arrange for your executor to have easy access to some of your cash (maybe put that person on your checking account now) so she can cover her expenses of closing your estate and pay the utilities for your house before it sells. (Pay them without having to use her own money, that is.)

      Throw away or donate all the crap you’re never going to want again. Sort through the eight years’ worth of Medicare EOBs and other bills so that your executor has to deal only with active bills.

      Arrange and pay for your burial/cremation/donation to The Body Farm. It seems macabre, but it is just one less thing for your executor to do. (Actually, I don’t even know if the executor is in charge of burial – but someone has to do it!)

      1. Texan In Exile*

        And if you have pets, figure out what’s supposed to happen to them! That was the worst thing for Mr T. He had asked his parents several times before they died what plans they had for their cats.

        They had no plans.

        Mr T spent weeks trying to re-home the cats – he did not want to send them to a sanctuary. (And bringing them to our house was not an option – we already have two cats and his parents’ cats were mean.)

      2. Bibliovore*

        Thank you. I have a will because of your postings. That is a good idea about having cash on hand for the executor for expenses.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Bibliovore, it makes me so happy to know that you have a will and that I helped! It’s a great feeling to know that someone’s life is a little bit better because of something I said.

          (I am also super happy today because someone commented on my latest blog post that her community college, which has a lot of first-generation students, has re-named “office hours” to “student hours.” She thinks it’s because last spring in a faculty meeting, she recounted my story about not knowing what office hours were when I was in college. I thought those were just the hours when professors worked (which made me think a five hour workweek was what I should expect in life) and not a time when I could ask a teacher for help. So – I never asked for help, which I desperately needed. I didn’t even know it was allowed.)

          1. Bibliovore*

            Because of you, when my husband suddenly died five months ago I knew where everything was. All the important documents.
            We made sure that all assets were in both our names like the deed for the house and the car titles and all checking accounts. That I was the current beneficiary on all I R As etc.
            Because of you there was no probate.
            And because of you I am working on an estate plan that includes who and how the pets will be cared for.
            It’s been pretty awful but it would have been worse without your guidance and horror stories.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              Oh Bibliovore. I am so so sorry that you ever needed any information I shared. What a horrible loss you have suffered. I would so much rather have been shouting into the wind than have any of my words be needed. I am grateful that your work was lessened but wish so much more that your husband were still alive. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    9. Not A Manager*

      Whoever is drafting your will/estate plan should be able to help you with this. In general, after you die someone will manage all of your stuff and distribute it however you’ve said. You can tell that person to give a specific thing to a specific beneficiary – like giving your home to your niece – or you can treat all of your stuff as one big lump and give a percent of it to everyone. In that case, your house would just be another asset with a market value that’s included in determining how much money each person gets.

      Usually the executor (or trustee) has broad discretion to liquidate items in your estate and distribute cash, or to give someone a particular asset as part of their inheritance. Some investments aren’t easy to liquidate or it’s bad market timing (or they have specific sentimental value to the recipient).

      So you probably shouldn’t have to decide in advance whether your home should be sold as part of your estate, to raise money for your beneficiaries, or whether someone should just inherit the house outright. You can leave everyone a percent of your estate, and then they and the executor can decide if it makes more sense to sell the house or to transfer it to a beneficiary; you can leave someone your house or its equivalent value, and then whatever it’s worth when you die is what that person would inherit; and I’m sure there are a lot of other options.

      Your estate planner should be able to outline your options in broad strokes pretty quickly, so you won’t have to pay a lot to get some guidance on this.

  22. Favorite thing you read this week?*

    Last weekend someone mentioned the hobbydrama subreddit so I checked it out.

    Many posts require a lot of reading of the background of why something is interesting / dramatic but I saw the posts from 2019 about a clam chowder Facebook group.

    Those posts are amazing. The personality clashes over clam chowder (which I like but hadn’t spent too much time thinking about but now will think about a whole lot more) were epic.

    So what did you read this week that you really enjoyed and got stuck in your head?

    1. fposte*

      Thank you for asking, because I have been desperate to tell people about this. There are various text accounts and also at least one YouTube video on the topic (that’s where I encountered the story, so I specifically recommend the Vox video), which is the mystery of “same sky” postcards. It’s the result of an obsessive postcard collector who began to see that there were a couple of very specific cloud formations that would recur in postcards from places all over and at various times, and a dive into how such postcards got made and why the skies got repeated. What to me was as fascinating as the same-sky situation was what this man’s huge postcard collection revealed about patterns and tropes in these images. I just love when somebody looks broadly at some kind of unconsidered medium and finds meaningful patterns.

      1. 2QS*

        Oh, I saw this too and thought it was so interesting! I love watching people (including myself) get keenly interested in things, plus I understand the urge to collect in general, and the guy in the video is from the same city I grew up in.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m reading “Jane Austen: The Secret Radical” and while some of the author’s analysis feels far-fetched to me, the way she places Austen’s novels in the personal and cultural context of when they were written is really interesting. Also she pointed out that Wickham might be Darcy’s half-brother and now I’m scandalized lol

      1. Pam Adams*

        Wickham being a secret half-brother sounds quite reasonable to me, amd increases the reasons why 1) the Darcy’s cared, and 2) Wickham was angry and revengeful.

  23. sad tomato*

    I have a question about what to do with someone’s pets if they are not able to care for them for a period of time.

    My husband’s sister, “Amy”, has been an alcoholic for at least the past few years, maybe longer. It’s gotten to the point where she cannot go a day without drinking otherwise she experiences severe withdrawal symptoms.

    She was hospitalized this past week and there is a concern that her liver is badly damaged. After she gets out of the hospital, she is going into a recovery program for 30-40 days. She is also dealing with fallout from business dealings with an ex-boyfriend and may need to declare bankruptcy.

    Amy has four older children who live on their own and one teenage daughter who still lives with her. The father of the teenager is not in the picture. She also has three cats and a dog.

    The daughter is staying with a family friend. My husband’s other sister, “Beth”, has taken in the dog.

    My husband and I are the cat people in the family, so we’ve volunteered to care for the cats while they are sill in Amy’s apartment.

    I went over there last night and the place was quite dirty. There are two litter boxes that look like they hadn’t been cleaned in several days. There was some water in one of those automatic feeders but I couldn’t find any food left out for the cats. There were empty bowls with dried food in various places in the apartment.

    I noticed one of the cabinet doors ajar and I think the cats might have been eating the dry food out of one the large bags in there.

    I gave the cats fresh food and water and cleaned the litter boxes. I emptied out multiple bags of trash and did the dishes piled in the sink and counter.

    The cats are still pretty young – around 6 months to a year. Two boys and a girl and I don’t think they have been fixed yet. My husband and I have agreed to take the cats and pay for them to get fixed. And we are going to care for them while Amy is still in the hospital.

    However, we don’t know how long Amy will be in the hospital and after that if she goes into rehab for another month that is a long time to care for these animals.

    We both feel like these animals should be rehomed, because we don’t know if Amy would be physically or emotionally able to care for these animals when she comes back home.

    Her older kids are not in a place to care for the animals. One of Amy’s daughters has an un-spayed female cat and Amy took in two of the kittens from that litter. We’re also trying to get in touch with the older daughter to help pay for getting her cat spayed.

    We don’t want the cats going to a shelter so we would care for the cats and post on social media and try to network with friends to help get them adopted.

    Since this is my husband’s family he will be discussing this with his other siblings.

    Are we making the right decision in trying to rehome the cats? We’re trying to do what’s best for the animals and trying to reduce the burden of responsibilities on Amy as she goes through recovery.

    1. Amtelope*

      This is a question for Amy, because they’re her cats. Personally, I would take care of the cats for the month she’s in rehab, because if she doesn’t have care for the cats, that’s a reason for her to avoid actually doing rehab, which won’t be good for anyone. Then you can talk to her about whether she can realistically care for the cats and whether she’d be willing for you to help her rehome them.

      If you absolutely can’t care for the cats while she’s in rehab, tell her and her daughters that, and let them figure out a solution. But you can’t just give away her cats while she’s in rehab against her will. They are her pets, and they don’t belong to you.

      1. Cookie D'oh*

        We’re planning on taking care of the cats for the time being and may ask other family members to help out if needed. My husband will talk to Amy before any decisions are made. We would not rehome the cats without her input.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Rehoming them is probably not a bad idea, but I don’t think it’s something you should do without talking to Amy first, if at all possible. She might have some trouble with them when she gets home, but if she comes home out of rehab to find that people gave away all her pets while she was in, that probably won’t put her in a very good mindset either.

    3. Southern Girl*

      There are cat rescue organizations in many cities that will take them to foster/adopt if Amy decides to give them up. Possibly could foster them while she is in rehab, not sure if they do short term like that or not. Bless you for stepping up for the kitties.

      1. sad tomato*

        Thanks. I would be happy to take them in myself, but we have five cats and some that are sensitive to changes in the environment. I don’t want to cause stress for the resident kitties. For the time being, I’m planning on taking care of the cats while Amy is in rehab.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Around here there is a little secret that some vets will spay for free. The one vet that I know of who does this commits to doing x number of free spays per month. I am pretty sure other vets also do this. This is not something that is advertised and usually comes into conversation ONLY if there is a need, such as your story here. You can frame it as, “I am trying to help my sick family member. I have been taking care of these cats but I can’t cover the spaying, is there anyone around who would be willing to help me?” Keep asking until you find someone who gives you an answer.

      1. PT*

        The nonprofit that runs county animal services here does low-cost spay/neuters. I just trapped a stray to get him neutered (and then, of course, ended up keeping him) and it was $50 for the spay plus $10 for rabies vax and then an optional $15 for three days of cat morphine which I paid for because he looked so sad in his trap and I felt guilty.

        This is *WAY* cheaper than a private vet would charge.

        1. Anonymous*

          Our county health department offers free rabies shots. Check your county website to see if your county has this offering. They pick one town a month. So you can just go when the clinic is at a town near you.

      2. Cj*

        We had several pretty feral cat spayed for $20 through a program that goes around with a mobile surgery unit. They do this because they don’t want them to continue to multiple.

        We’ve also gotten a discount at that when we had multiple pet cats spayed same time. Since they’re looking at 3 and possibly for cats with the daughters they should ask their vet.

    5. Teatime is Goodtime*

      The only thing that I would mention that I am not seeing here is whether or not it would make sense to talk to the teenage daughter about it. I mean, it is a crappy enough situation for her at the moment anyway, so I would wonder what effect coming back home to no cats would have… Maybe none, but also maybe something. That would tip the scales for me in terms of my actions. I would definitely be willing to do more care for the cats over a longer period of time, as opposed to something more irreversible like rehoming, if it made a material difference in the teenaged daughter’s health and happiness. But a lot depends on the particulars that I don’t know.

      1. sad tomato*

        Thanks for mentioning this. I know that the daughter is very attached to the dog and we’ll definitely keep her in mind as we figure out what to do with the cats. I just feel like she’s been through so much already, I don’t know what level of care she can help provide her mom for the other animals. I’m just talking about daily litter box cleaning and making sure they have good and water. But all this is speculation and requires more discussion with everyone.

    6. heckofabecca*

      Echoing everyone that, as you already have addressed, this is a question that only Amy can answer. I honestly got a cat to help deal with my mental health issues, so having a routine around caring for her cats could be a huge help to Amy. It does sound like it might help for a care routine to get developed so she knows what’s needed for caring for them, if she decides to keep them.

      There is also the possibility of finding a short- or long-term foster situation until Amy is back on her feet (mentally, financially, etc). Some people are willing to do this! There’s a group in my area that recently started for people who need their pets rehomed temporarily.

      Best of luck to all, especially Amy.

      1. JustForThis*

        I came here to say this: caring for a pet may be helpful during a difficult healing process. For some people, it is easier to get out of bed in the morning because someone else needs them rather than “just” for themselves.

        1. sad tomato*

          I have five cats, and they definitely help me get out of bed in the morning and keep me going when I feel depressed. I agree that this requires a discussion with Amy and maybe me and my husband can offer to help with pet care when she gets back home.

    7. Daffodilly*

      You’ve replied to many people that you will talk to Amy before **you and your husband** make a decision.
      That’s the wrong approach.
      What you need to to is talk to Amy, ask her what HER decision is, and then respect that.
      You think you’re “helping” by reducing demands or whatever other justifications you’ve come up with. But you do not get to micromanage Amy’s life, or the teen’s life.
      Be supportive by caring for the cats during rehab.
      And also be supportive by respecting Amy’s autonomy.

    8. Everyone's family is different*

      Amy is so seriously unwell that she has to be hospitalized. Her daughter is living through an immense trauma. How would you feel if someone got rid of your pets (or started asking you about the possibility of doing so) during the lowest moment of your life?

      If you can’t take care of the cats, you can’t take care of the cats. Your boundaries are yours to set and enforce. But right now is probably not the right time to ask Amy (or her daughter) about rehoming their pets. If you aren’t able, financially or logistically, to maintain the status quo for a bit, it would be ideal to ask another family member to take this piece on. I think rehoming should be a last resort only.

    9. Macaroni Penguin*

      OP, you are a fantastic human for prioritizing spaying and neutering the cats. And for giving them foster care while your family member is in treatment. I think that rehoming the cats is a valid conversation to have with Amy (when she’s feeling well enough). Presuming that everyone is on good terms and interested in having this discussion.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Nope, sorry. Not your decision to make.

      Of course your intentions are good and it may be in the cats’ long term best interest, but you just can’t do this behind Amy’s back. She is in rehab, she’s not dead or a vegetable.

      If she can’t take them back when she goes home, you aren’t on the hook to keep them forever. You can have a conversation at that point about where else she might want them to go, or how to handle it.

      But you can’t just get rid of her pets without her consent. Not just morally, legally even. Would you go through her house and give away her appliances or jewelry so she wasn’t burdened?

      No, because that’s stealing. Same here.

    11. sad tomato*

      Thanks for all the responses so far. When I originally posted, I was in a tired, emotional state and upset from the things I had seen the previous night. All that combined, made me jump to the extreme conclusion of needing to re-home the cats. It was wrong and judgemental of me to do that.

      My husband talked to Amy today and she is doing well. She gets out of the hospital in a couple of days and will be in rehab for a couple of weeks. We will continue to watch the cats until she comes home and we offered to help once she comes back home.

      It sounds like this was a wake up call for her and she seems comitted to doing the work to stay sober.

      1. AnonHere*

        I’m glad you are feeling more rested and optimistic. I want to say that it may not be a straight line for Amy to achieve long lasting recovery. Relapse is often part of the process. The fact that it’s a process is important to understand. It’s not a pen and done decision.

        I’ve lived though this with close family. And I’ve had my share of mental health challenges, including things getting the point where I needed to spend two months in residential treatment earlier this year (my primary diagnosis isn’t one that there are a lot of options for).

        I was so so lucky to find a friend of a friend who was willing to take in my cat for that time. She’s a people cat and would have been miserable. And I don’t have any family that are able to support me like you’re able to do here. I flat out refused to go if I didn’t have someone for her to stay with. I would have left treatment against their advice if it came down to it.

        Perhaps I seem to obsessed with my cat and not enough with my health. But you know, there’s logic and then there’s what you can live with. I just couldn’t have abandoned her. She didn’t choose for me to be the one who took her in and gave her a home all these years. I don’t always have a lot going for me but my commitment to my values is one thing that keeps me going.

        So please, don’t underestimate how these sorts of things that seem like they shouldn’t be can nonetheless be very important. Whether it’s her cats or something else, ultimately she gets to decide what her priorities are.

    12. Cj*

      If you can get the cat into the right no kill shelter, they actually may be able to find better homes and you just you just post on social media. If a social media post would get them a home with and it probably be fine. But Humane Societies we have adopted our dogs from Vickery funeral in fitting that we would be a good home, including talking to our vet for our current

  24. Paralegal Part Deux*

    I’m looking at getting a ragdoll cat and am thinking of getting pet insurance. Has anyone ever bought pet insurance before? Is it worth the investment? Any recommendations if you have?

    1. Meh*

      Everything I’ve read about pet insurance says that you should instead put aside that amount of money each month -never touch it-and you can pay out of pocket should something happen. The insurances are picky and don’t cover a lot of things. So..ymmv.

      I have my senior dog on a pet care plan from Banfield because it includes all the routine stuff and unlimited office visits. She’s old and I worry, so those are quite often.

      1. Flower necklace*

        FWIW, I got the Banfield plan four years ago, when I adopted my cat as a kitten, mostly because this is my first real cat and I was anxious about properly taking care of him. I’ve been mainly using it for the routine care, but they discovered he has hypercalcemia and stage 2 kidney disease at a recent checkup and recommended fluids once a week.

        I tried, but he won’t me give him fluids. However, with the Banfield plan, I can take him in once a week for a vet tech appointment that (I was surprised to learn) only costs $10 each time. So the plan has been worth the expense.

        1. PT*

          My sister bought the Membership Plan from her vet and found that was more cost effective for her one year her cat was expected to have a bunch of expensive stuff. It’s not insurance per se, but it works in a similar way. You pay the vet’s office a membership fee each month and it covers a whole raft of care.

        2. Pam Adams*

          We have Banfield wellness plans for our dogs- I think of it as a pet HMO, rather than insurance. t allows you to get them the standard care they need at a fixed/discounted price.

    2. Magda*

      I had pet insurance for my beloved cat when she was younger, mostly because I was tormented by the idea of not being able to provide some medical treatment for her and having to put her down; it was almost more psychological for me than anything. I suspect it’s a better deal for dogs than cats; I had it for about six years and never used it (it didn’t cover ordinary vet stuff). When she turned 15 I cancelled it because the price was increasing and the coverage decreasing, and I wouldn’t pursue extraordinary measures anyway at that point. I’m a bit skeptical of all insurance honestly, as someone else said it might be better to just save up a lot – because then you *know* you’ll be able to use it, as opposed to paying a lot for insurance and then getting your claim denied and having to spend your own money anyway.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        I think it’s more psychological at this point, because I’m looking at a purebred ragdoll and know those tend to have more health issues. I’ve done all kinds of research and just can’t come to a decision so thought I’d ask here for opinions/if anyone has used pet insurance. I did check with my vet, and they said they’d fill out all the necessary paperwork to submit to the insurance company to make it easy on me with the insurance company. I just don’t know what to do.

        1. Strict Extension*

          Keep in mind that a lot of the advice about pet insurance out there (like much generalized pet advice) defaults to somewhat large dogs as the platonic ideal of “pet.” Often when I look into details, it’s people talking about their Golden Retriever needing a tumor removed which would have been multiple thousands of dollars. A tumor identical in description to my cat’s, which was about $600 all-included.

          Even though said cat is now on multiple cancer drugs, I still opt to pay for my other cats out-of-pocket since she’s the only one I’ve had in my life that would have made the insurance pay for itself.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I do think they’ve gotten better in the last few years than they used to be. I’ve heard good things about Nationwide’s pet coverage, and at least looking at their materials, I’m only mostly joking when I say it looks like it gives better coverage than my own health insurance. :P I’ll be getting more puppy in the spring and probably doing more research at that point – I have a few coworkers who use it and have been reasonably satisfied. They do still have deductibles and such, and the younger you get the critter covered the less likely you are to have to worry about pre-existing conditions.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        The cat I’m looking at is 2, so she’s fairly young. I have looked at so. many. websites. It’s so overwhelming. As far as I can tell, Embrace is a good company but has higher rates, but it has the wellness visits (and chronic conditions like allergies) covered like I want at an extra cost.

    4. Dino*

      I looked into it because I was getting new renters insurance and they offered a bundle. I realized I’d rather get Care Credit if something happened to my cat and I wasn’t in a place to cover it myself. The rules and stipulations for the insurance I looked at didn’t seem to make it worth it. Plus there’s nothing worse than fighting with insurance companies during/after a stressful emergency situation.

    5. Squidhead*

      We have PetPlan (I think it’s Fetch now, actually) for 3 cats. Each cat is around $300/year, which is an amount we felt was appropriate for peace of mind. One of the cats had a $9000 hospital stay for a fatal condition that needed surgery…followed by another hospital stay for a different life-threatening problem a few months later…and he’s still here, 6 years later! We definitely would have euthanized him because the surgery was high-risk and we couldn’t have afforded it at the time. The other cats we haven’t had any major medical issues but the insurance did cover the one cat’s sedated dental cleaning because the vet saw that she had gum disease. That took the procedure from “health maintenance” to “disease treatment.”

    6. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      I just read about a new thing called Pawp. $19.99 per month, any animal or age, and you get access to a vet 24/7 online. If you need to go in for an emergency, it’s covered up to $3k , paid before you leave the clinic. I haven’t used it but it seems like a good deal.

    7. twocents*

      I don’t have it because the criteria and limitations are such that I’d rather just budget for my dog and pay out of pocket. My dog is a mutt, and hasn’t had anything outside of a couple UTIs in the four years I’ve had her.

      However, a friend of mine has a purebred dog that won the lottery on inheriting dang near every genetic defect that comes with being purebred, so for her, the insurance has been worth it. Her dog had four (? if I remember correctly) surgeries by the time he was six months old.

      I don’t know anything about cats, but if you’re looking at a purebred that might have the same sort of problems that purebred dogs do, then based on what I witnessed with my friend, it may well be worth it.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        The cat is a purebred ragdoll, because, apparently, you have to return those to the breeders and can’t just give them to a shelter if you can no longer take care of them. She’s 2 (has had one litter of kittens but is on the petite side so isn’t exactly ideal for ragdoll size – but perfect for me, actually), and I’m a bit wary on the health issues. My last cat was part ragdoll but was healthy as a horse. She just never got sick. So, it was never an issue. This cat, however, may be a ticking time bomb of health issues. I just have no way of knowing for sure.

    8. Exif*

      I had VPI for rescue cats, and they claimed literally everything was pre-existing, since I didn’t have medical records going back to their births. Total scam rip-off. I will never pay for pet insurance again. Just set aside money each month.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      I looked into it for my cats, but decided against it. It doesn’t cover the main expense I’ve had repeatedly over the years: dental. Dental for cats is really expensive and it’s typically needed every couple years, depending on the cat’s health, how well their teeth are cared for, and their predisposition to gum disease and other dental issues. And last time I checked, which has been a few years, it didn’t cover routine care. I agree with others saying to put money aside in savings for anything that might come up.

    10. Jackalope*

      I had pet insurance for a number of years and for me it wasn’t generally worth it. Even though I got one that was more generous than the rest in what they covered (and they had you take the cats to the vet within two weeks of when you got them, or got the coverage, and then anything the vet didn’t find then was NOT a preexisting condition), but it still covered almost nothing. At one point in time they switched to a thing where you had a $700 deductible…. but it was for each condition, every six months. So I had a $750 dental bill and they paid $50, and then a few months later I had a $600 bill, expected it to be paid (not knowing that they’d changed it so each separate condition had its own deductible), and had to pay it all out of pocket.

      After that I dropped the pet insurance and just started saving more. I’d rather self insure since I got so little help from them after paying them a lot of money in premiums.

    11. Marion Ravenwood*

      I had pet insurance when I had cats previously. Luckily I never had to use it, but the reassurance of having something to fall back on if they got seriously injured or ill worked for me. I guess the issue with the whole ‘save what you’d spend on it’ is that if something goes wrong fairly early in the pet’s time with you in that scenario, then you’ll be out of pocket for considerably more than if you’d had insurance, but that obviously depends if you can cover the cost in other ways.

      I’m in the UK so the companies may be slightly different elsewhere, but I was with Petplan and always found them to be pretty good.

  25. Rural social fabric*

    What areas of the US are based around a rural social fabric, yet populated with people who have liberal/democrat social values? Or at least, people with not very conservative/religious values.

    I live in an area that until about 40 years ago was very much in the country, quite separate from the city I grew up near, but now is on the edge of the suburbs of that city. Being near the city, most people with non-conservative values here come from an urban social perspective or even liberal activist footing (the “east-coast urban elite”), while the people whose families have always been based out here in the country, living as part of the rural social fabric, are all pretty conservative. The two worlds exist on top of each other, hardly intermingling. Although I went to a fancy liberal-arts college my work is of a rural type, and after 10 years of living out here I can see and appreciate how the community of rural folks functions, and can somewhat pass as part of it, but would never find it a comfortable social home because of political/social views. I would love to live in an area with the small-scale rural arrangement of society, but populated with non-conservatives. I have visited areas that do have the sort of social fabric and demographic I describe, and where I would be happy to live, but they are not numerous because rural/conservative and urban/liberal correlate so closely. I would be glad to know of other areas to investigate especially as my partner and I consider an eventual move together.

    1. Usara*

      I live in Virginia, in a “country style” area near Richmond. We’re definitely a purple state, with some really conservative areas, but my area is a mix of liberal and conservative (at least I assume, just given demographics/comments people have made). The more rural areas trend conservative, but being this close to Richmond they’re not fully.

    2. No name yet*

      I found large swathes of Vermont to fit into this type of category. The areas around Dartmouth are maybe less rural than you’d want, but definitely are not-city and pretty liberal.

    3. Meh*

      Asheville NC?

      I lived in a rural area south of DC and it was very Red, people proudly sent their kids to Liberty, and open carried.

      I recently moved away

    4. AY*

      Yellow Springs, Ohio or Oberlin, Ohio might fit the bill. Oberlin of course is centered around the college. But it’s completely surrounded by cornfields. Yellow Springs is extremely charming and it used to be home to Antioch College, which was a very unique, sort of self directed college. I live in Ohio and can’t speak to other places.

      1. fposte*

        Though I think that’s often still the intermingling RSF describes rather than a general across-the-board liberalism–at least it’s like that in my state.

      2. Elle Woods*

        That was my thought too. The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign seems to fit what OP describes wanting.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am fairly rural here. There are pockets of liberal thinking folks around me.

      Just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. People think they way they do for reasons. It’s my theory based on what I see here is that the rougher weather and rougher terrain tends to help incubate the more conservative thinking. I would not move a few miles from my house that I have now. Simply because life on those roads can get pretty tough and sometimes scary (scary to me- bears, big snakes, drunk drivers on curvy roads etc.) To me the country side sure looks pretty, but day-to-day life would not be doable for the person I am. I don’t wanna be the first and only responder to a car crash. I have no interest in helping a neighbor down the road deal with a large bear. And so on. Eh, on my current road we’ve had problems with rabid foxes. My friend who lives about 5 miles from here tells a story of running from a bear with two kids one in each arm. (oh noooo.)

      With all this in mind- my suggestion to you is to go toward small towns or villages- places with services and stores. Look at the condition of the properties. Find out what kinds of groups meet regularly- if they have a chamber of commerce, then C of C should be able to help you find a list of civic organizations. Libraries can be a great source of information about their population that they serve.

    6. CJM*

      I sometimes ponder all that too. I daydream about moving to several acres in the countryside, but the political divide around here (upper Midwest) is just as you describe, and so I don’t pursue it.

      My husband and I live in a small-ish city of about nine thousand residents that’s ten minutes from the most liberal city in our state. There are other small cities and villages around the big, liberal city (BLC), but mostly the surrounding land is rural (townships). All of the surrounding entities lean more conservative than BLC.

      For us it’s been a decent compromise to live just outside of BLC. There are lots of like-minded folks there and activities galore. But we’re off to the side where space and prices suit us. We’re not social in our small city, and that’s not just because it’s more conservative than we are. All of the local friends we’ve made through work and hobbies happen to live in BLC or the other small cities/villages and townships. And people in our neighborhood keep to themselves besides an occasional wave and sidewalk conversation.

      We often drive to a pub in a nearby village that’s so tiny that you’d miss it if you blinked. The vibe is definitely more conservative, and we won’t eat inside because mask compliance seems low. We feel a bit like outsiders, but we love the place and keep going back.

    7. Weekend Energy*

      University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
      Pockets of Vermont
      The Seacoast area of New Hampshire

      I was looking for exactly what you are looking for and we settled on Durham, New Hampshire. College town. Amtrak to Boston. Tons of greenspace. There’s dozens of other small towns, with varying politics to match.

        1. ampersand*

          When I lived in Chapel Hill in my early 20s, I was surprised by how conservative it was—I’m from Texas, as a point of reference. It was long enough ago that it’s possible it’s changed, or maybe I just had some one-off experiences.

          I will say it’s pretty difficult in the US to find a place that feels like a small town but is liberal and isn’t outrageously expensive. I think about this a lot…I don’t think I’d move back to Chapel Hill, though I would consider Asheville.

          1. Amtelope*

            I currently live in Chapel Hill, and it’s definitely a liberal community, Carrboro even more so (Chapel Hill and Carrboro are right up against each other and share a public school system). I wouldn’t call it rural, though. It’s a college town. Maybe check out Hillsborough or Pittsboro? Both are less liberal than Chapel Hill/Carrboro (everything in NC’s less liberal than Chapel Hill/Carrboro), but are increasingly progressive while having more of a small-town feel. They’re also both less pricey.

            1. Ampersand*

              This is nice to hear! I suspect I really did have some one-off experiences that were more representative of individuals’ beliefs than the values held by most people in Chapel Hill (and Carrboro).

              I still miss the Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro. Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had was there, and I remember it fondly.

    8. PollyQ*

      A number of California’s coastal counties are like this. The down side is the wildfires and the relatively high COL.

    9. BlueK*

      That’s a tough one. Part of me would love to move to the WV mountains I’ve visited a few times when my grandparents were still living. There is so much there. But I would struggle to connect to other people and I know it. I could coexist but I’d feel like I wasn’t being true to myself for all the things I let go unchallenged. With my grandparents it was different because it was family. Also, for whatever reason my grandpa didn’t like Trump.

      My personal theory is the socially conservative aspect at least has a lot to do with the remoteness itself. I’m as liberal as I am because I’ve lived different places and experienced enough to see that all the stereotypes you hear aren’t accurate. But if you only ever known the same people, then there’s not those experiences to challenge inherited beliefs.

      Case in point: one of my relatives who fought in Vietnam sent a picture home with a note about how eating with his Black troop members was “how it is here.” Once he spent time with actual Black people he realized that they jwanted to survive and go back home just like he did.

    10. Camelid coordinator*

      I don’t have an answer to your question but appreciate you raising it. Decades ago my father in law retired to an area out West that had been quiet, rural, and very conservative. He said he could gauge the influx of new people into the valley by tracking the votes on changing/loosening the regulations on selling liquor. We intend to retire there as well, and my guess is that my social interactions will be with other folks who moved in. The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks helped me think about this dynamic.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Interesting discussion. I’m very liberal for my area. I find myself doing a lot of code-shifting at times, if you know what I mean.

    11. KR*

      Joshua Tree has a deep liberal artsy undercurrent, but is a rural place. I will note that rural CA gets conservative very quickly, but what both liberals and conservatives in those areas have in common is that they move to the desert because they want space and to be left alone.

    12. Strict Extension*

      I haven’t lived there, but I have visited, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is a small Ozark town with a what seems like a tight-knit community that loves being a thorn in the side of state-wide conservative politics. The Daily Show did a segment about their anti-discrimination legislation. Now it is a tourist town, so not exactly rural, but I don’t think anyone would call it urban either.

  26. bibliovore*

    Two friends of my husband’s stayed a night with me. (over 40 years)
    One took a nap in the afternoon.
    He took out his hearing aids and put them on a low table.
    My puppy took one and noshed on it.
    They are not dog people and didn’t realize that would be an attractive treat for her.
    These are not people of means.
    I would like to offer to pay for it.
    I understand that this could run thousands.
    I am ok with that.
    How do I approach this topic?
    I wished I had offered right away. Feeling kind of stupid.

    1. Anona*

      I would just call and say you’re so sorry for not offering earlier, your manners escaped you, but of course you insist on paying to replace the hearing aid. Just let you know how much, and the check will be in the mail. And you’re aware they cost a lot, but such is dog ownership sometimes!

    2. Amtelope*

      I’d say just call/email/text (whatever you usually do with these friends) and say some version of “Since my dog chewed up your hearing aid, please let me pay for a new one, I know they can be expensive and this one’s on me because my dog did the damage.” If they say absolutely not, eventually you have to drop the subject, but I’d offer several times even in the face of an initial “no” to make it clear you’re not just making a polite offer you don’t mean.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      “Hey, I just wanted to apologize again that puppy nommed your medical device. That was our oops**, so please let me know what the bill is for the replacement and I’d be happy to take care of that for you.”

      **I mean, it wasn’t exactly, but since you want to pay I’d grabby-hands the blame anyway.

    4. Southern Girl*

      My dog chewed up my dental retainers the ONE time I left them on a low table. Not as expensive as hearing aids of course but getting new ones made was a pain. Not sure why they love to chew on little plastic things. You are a good person for being willing to pay for replacement.

      1. Anna*

        When I talked to my dentist about a mouth guard the first thing he asked was ” do you have pets” since if I had pets he would not recommend the silicone ones

        1. Xenia*

          I got my mouth guard about a year ago and the very first thing the dentist warned me about was that dogs would chew on it so i had to be careful to put it away

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think you are looking for an opening line?

      “Hey, I so enjoyed your visit and it still bothers me that Pooch ate your hearing aid. I want to make good on that- it’s my dog and I am responsible here. I’d like us to talk about how to get a new hearing aid for you.”

      I love how you are stepping right up here. You put a smile on my face. I think your friend will smile too, even if the friend says, “no, don’t worry about it” they will still remember that you reopened the conversation because it was that important to you.

    6. newbie*

      Call your homeowners’ insurance. Depending on the value of the broken device and your deductible it may be worth letting them take care of it.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Good idea! Hubby’s hearing aids are $2500 apiece. Your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance deductible might be less.

    7. bibliovore*

      Update: I did understand that the homeowners insurance might cover it but my preference would be not to file a claim (increase in rates)
      I called this morning. They refused to allow me to pay for it. I tried a few times and they still said no. They said it wasn’t a hardship for them and I shouldn’t worry about it anymore. They will be coming back for another visit in a month. Thank you all for giving me language and easing my anxiety.

  27. Green Snickers*

    Any recommendations for Dubai? I just found out I’ll have a work trip there around the Expo so will definitely be hitting there but restaurants/other things to do? I’ve never been there or to the ME but an American colleague who lives there and has been giving me details on things I need to know before I go(like I can wear the same stuff I wear here in the states) but anything else good to know that I can’t easily find online?

    1. The Dogman*

      If you are a man then most things will be fine. Just wear long sleeves and trousers and do not show tattoos or piercings etc.

      If you are a woman then there will be severe restrictions on you. Wear full length clothing that does not flatter your figure or expect to be harrassed to one degree or another, at the least there will be looks and muttering.

      I recommend you do not consume any alcohol or drugs there, the punishments are extreme, I also recommend you only go places with company you can trust.

      My sister worked there for a six months and said it was one of the most dangerous and unpleasant places for women she has ever experienced.

      1. In Dubai*

        I’ve lived in Dubai for the past 5 years, and aside from the penalties on illegal drug use, nothing in this comment is accurate at all.

        Dubai is full of women walking around in perfectly normal clothing, including shorts or crop tops, and showing tattoos. Alcohol is completely legal for tourists and widely available in public restaurants and bars. And never once have I been sexually harassed or catcalled in public – practically a weekly occurrence back home in Europe. There’s plenty to criticise on a political level, but in terms of day to day safety, the UAE is by far the safest country I’ve ever been to.

        Green Snickers – don’t let people make you nervous! Dubai is very cosmopolitan and a fun time. The Expo is a really cool day out and I suggest looking up Time Out’s best restaurants list for recommendations. If you have time for a day trip, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi is an hour away and wonderful, and the sunset desert camps are quite magical.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Agree. I’m a woman. I visited Dubai in late 2016 – never had any issues with catcalling or harassment. I wore “full” clothing but that’s b/c I’m shaped like a potato. I visited malls and beaches and saw women wearing anywhere from abayas/niqabs to bikinis so.

        2. Lotus*

          I’ve been to Dubai several times and second this. They cater to Westerners/foreigners. You can get most typical things, including alcohol.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      The nice thing about their public transit is that there is a women-only coach. I loved that.

      There is (or was) a women-run taxi service as well. It cost more than a regular taxi (of course it did) but if you’re expensing it anyhow.

      The food was amazing – don’t eat in the hotel if you have time. Eat at a local place – it’s cheaper and the food is amazing.

      There’s a souk and a fish market and a museum of old Dubai, all of which were neat. Oh! And take the water taxi across the river.

      I wouldn’t go to Dubai for a vacation, but if you’re going to be stuck there anyhow, there are things to do.

      Take earplugs – the first call to prayer comes awfully early in the morning. It woke me up.

  28. Magda*

    Ugh, my sophomore novel comes out in December and … everyone just keeps telling me that supply issues will make it impossible to get in stores. I see even famous authors – much bigger than me – on Twitter trying to reassure readers that they’ll eventually get copies because they’re not currently in stock (and it’s only October!). Publishers just keep saying “push the pre-orders” but I find that quite a difficult sell for the average reader: “Pay full price now and get the book in a few months” isn’t a great deal. Have you, a non-publishing-insider, ever pre-ordered a book, and if so, why? Was it a swag-type opportunity (this is tough for authors because we’re paying for that swag out of pocket, and mailing it), a reduced price (beyond my control sadly) or wanting to show support?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I preorder books quite frequently, but usually for authors that I already know I’m going to buy pretty much anything they put out. (And always as e-books, I almost never buy hard copies either in advance or after release.) For me, it’s convenience – if Seanan McGuire says something about thus-and-such book coming out in January, I’ll go preorder it while I’m thinking about it so I don’t forget later. A book that I want to read-but-not-buy, I would normally get from the library, and those are more likely to be something I follow up on post-release.

    2. Janet Pinkerton*

      I have pre-ordered multiple times and it was to show support! Plus it meant I got it right away when it came out. I am also happy to pay full price for books (largely because I hate Amazon and shop at my local bookstore or at bookshop dot org).

    3. Dino*

      Just last month I preordered a book. It’s the author’s first book but I’ve been reading their writing and following their work online for years.

      1. Dino*

        I forgot to add: no swag involved and I don’t know the author personally so it wasn’t to show support. The book just looks really good! In normal times I would have just picked it up in store next time I was in one after the release, but with all the supply chain issues I didn’t want to risk not being able to have it in my hands for who knows how long, ha.

    4. fueled by coffee*

      I’ll pre-order books when they’re the next in a series I’m excited about, or a new book by an author I’m already familiar with. If an author whose book I wanted to buy was tweeting/social media-ing about how pre-ordering was important, I’d probably go for it. The $25ish I’d spend on a book is not such a huge expense that I’d be irritated at having to wait.

      I’m not fully tuned into the supply chain/paper shortage situation, but if your book is due out in December, could you frame this as some sort of “get a head start on your holiday shopping” thing?

      As a teenager who religiously followed YA authors’ blogs/social media, I also remember a few “send me proof that you pre-ordered the book and I’ll do a lottery to send one or a few people swag/donate a nominal amount to a charity you pick/send a signed bookplate/etc.” I think Maureen Johnson once offered to name a dead body in her WIP murder mystery after one lucky reader. So I think there are creative ways to incentivize pre-orders without mailing out swag to everyone.

    5. Slinky*

      Yes, regularly. An author I value explained how important pre-orders are, and since then, I’ve preordered books I know I’ll want to read. Appeals to the fans work! People outside of publishing don’t understand at all how it work, because publishing is honestly a weird industry, but people are often interested in learning. I’ve also seen authors offer various preorder incentives. For example, when Alison published her book a few years ago, people who preordered could get a signed bookplate they could insert in the front of the volume.

    6. twocents*

      I’ve preordered books when I am familiar with the author, so expect it to be good, and I’ve read from some authors (like Mark Lawrence) that whether you get another book deal lives and dies on how your current books sell. Preorders get them shelf space and get them seen. Since I know I’m going to read it anyway, it feels like an easy way to help them out. Obviously, I don’t bother with the big names who are guaranteed tons of shelf space anyway.

      I didn’t know books were behind on printing, so I bugged my book store every couple of months. I just checked my emails, and the one I preordered from them took four months to come in.

      But I don’t care, because I wouldn’t have spent the $20 if I couldn’t afford it, and it helped my local bookstore out and helped out the author. I don’t need swag or deals to do it.

    7. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I pre-ordered a friend’s 1st novel to be supportive but also a novel from a columnist whose work on the The Root I really enjoyed, and I didn’t know the columnist at all — I just knew that I enjoyed his writing and was psyched to get my order in so that I’d get his book as soon as it was available. No swag involved at all. Getting the pre-ordered books was also like a lovely surprise because I had forgotten when they were supposed to come. I say, promote the heck out of those pre-orders on your social media or wherever else you reach people.

    8. Claire*

      I preorder a lot of the books I buy – probably most. Anything by my favourite authors is automatically preordered as soon as it’s announced, and anything I get recommended by authors I trust (who may have read an ARC for blurbing etc) I will preorder as well.

      For me, it’s partly about showing support, but mostly about making it convenient for myself. I don’t have to keep track of release dates this way. I just know the book will show up.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      I only ever pre-order Kindle books, from the writers I already know, but I do it quite often. I get at least 5-6 books pre-ordered per year.
      Right now I am waiting on the final book of The Expanse series, book #9.
      I would never preorder a book by a writer I haven’t read before, even if it’s a hyped book, I would rather wait on reviews and the price drop.

    10. RagingADHD*

      I have absolutely pre-ordered books from authors I was excited about, and honestly it was like being a kid when it came as a surprise in the mail. There was squealing.

      Pre-orders are fun!

    11. HannahS*

      Only when the Harry Potter novels were coming out, when I was an adolescent. Otherwise, no. To be fair though, I have a strong preference for borrowing fiction rather than buying it, so I’ll queue up at the library before the book comes out, which can help the library see how many copies they should acquire, I think.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve preordered books in a series that has been consistently enjoyed, books by friends, and books by people whose websites I enjoy.

    13. Pam Adams*

      Like Red Reader, I pre-order frequently, usually as e-books, snce my eyes are too weird for most print books these days.

      What is your book’s title, or your author name? I believe I’m starting a collection of “books by AMM people.” Three so far, including Alison.

      1. Magda*

        Aw, you’re sweet. It’s called “The Bone Cay” from Crooked Lane books. It’s about the caretaker of an estate in Key West who refuses to evacuate before a hurricane (based on the Hemingway House during Hurricane Irma) and stumbles into a mystery once the storm sets in.

    14. Ranon*

      I pre order because I tend to totally forget about doing it and then it’s a delightful surprise when I see a book I’m looking forward to is finally out and I’ve already bought it! I usually buy ebooks but I’ve pre-ordered months and months and months in advance for sure

    15. Magda*

      To everybody who responded: Thank you, you’ve given me a lot to think about! I will be more open on social media about why it’s particularly important and some of the advantages. I had certainly never heard of it myself as a reader before I got to this side of things.

    16. Delighting in daffodils*

      I do preorder a handful a books a year as a way to support up&coming authors whose work I’m passionate about! I will say that the swag I’ve gotten has been fine, but nothing that has been phenomenal (stickers, magnets, etc.). I understand the psychology of providing readers an incentive, but part of me wishes I could decline the swag and strike a small blow at consumerism.

    17. The Other Dawn*

      I ready everything on my phone using the Kindle app, so there’s no swag with a pre-order. I pre-order only when I’m reading a series and it’s the next book being released. It’s simply so I can get it right away when it’s released and also so I don’t forget it’s being released.

    18. Decidedly Me*

      I don’t typically pre-order, but for a specific reason. I greatly prefer paperbacks and most books release in hard cover. I could pre-order paperbacks, but tend to miss the timings on them (since the original release date is marketed more than the paperback one). If I notice it, I do, though!

    19. Cj*

      I pre-ordered books for authors I like so I can get them immediately and don’t have to remember the release date to order it at that time. I’m not sure if I would do it if I had to wait months to receive it, especially when the date would be unknown.

    20. Chaordic One*

      I do this for personal friends, but also to show support for people I really like and want to see succeed. In addition to pre-ordering books, I also pre-order music (vinyl and CDs). Otherwise, I’ll do it with a particular author or artist when I absolutely love their work and can’t wait for their next work and I want to be able to experience it at the earliest opportunity.

    21. Woolly Jumper*

      I have preordered! Mostly to show support for an author- I’ve seen authors explain why preordering is helpful to them which convinced me.

    22. Liz*

      I’m a published author and have found that many readers and followers are eager to help out once you share why preorders are so important. Also, the preorder incentives do not need to be physical items. You can give a bonus ebook, a webinar or online Q&A with you, etc. Best of luck!

    23. Strict Extension*

      Advice from a bookseller:

      –Find a local independent bookstore that is a decent size and offers online orders and shipping. Talk to them about doing a signed preorder campaign. They will be able to publicize to their following, highlighting you as a local author. You can send your friends there, and all you’ll have to worry about is showing up to sign the books before they get shipped. Bonus: Talk to them about hosting a launch event (in-person or virtual) and/or making them your official bookstore so that they can contact you any time someone wants to order a signed copy. If they have those systems in place, they are most likely NYT bestseller list-reporting, so it will help your numbers.
      –Reframe preorders in your mind. People aren’t paying now and having to wait to get something. They are placing the order now so that they don’t have to remember to do it later. It’s really just a way to set it and forget it. Offering preorders is a service, not a request for a favor. Especially now when those supply issues mean that if they don’t preorder, they risk the entire first printing (or at least whatever of it is available from their preferred source) being spoken for before the book is even out.

      So your pitch might look like “Hi Friends! XTitleofbookX comes out in December, and I can’t wait for you all to get to read it! I know that’s a bit far away, but you can place your preorder now, then you’ll be all set on publication day (especially since the global supply chain means we all have to think ahead and get those holiday orders in now). Plus, if you order from XmyfavoritebookstoreX, I’ll sign and personalize it for you! And then you can tune in on December X for our virtual launch party on Zoom!”

  29. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Your username is now your superhero/villain name. What are your powers?

    (Mine: turn into evil dog, summon old gods. It’s not a great career choice I admit)

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I … flutter in, trailing pixie dust, and help folks make decisions. When I’m not reading. (Barring the pixie dust and the fluttering, it really sounds about right. :P )

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I… die, and come back with 9 lives that are ironically funny to a niche group of internet strangers?

      1. GingerSheep*

        I produce masses of sweet but spicy smelling wool. I look like an adorably fluffy light orange cloud. I am so cute people want to pet me, squeeze me and adopt me, conveniently making them forget that I am also deliciously edible.

    3. Teatime is Goodtime*

      I… enjoy a really good cup of tea! My hope would be with other people here, that would be fantastic. :)

        1. Teatime is Goodtime*

          Oh yes to both! I just finished off my Yunnan a few weeks ago, funny you should mention it. Thanks for the reminder to get more. :)

        2. Teatime is Goodtime*

          Oh and I would of course share my tea too! I … may have an entire sideboard dedicated to all my tea, teapots and tea utensils. And I still have many things in my kitchen, too. I’d love to host a tea party for you all!

    4. Squirrel Nutkin*

      My most notable superpower is finding and gathering the nearest tasty snacks. I am also super neurotic yet super cuddly with a strong tendency towards “friskiness” (as Mrs. Cunningham might have put it on *Happy Days*). It’s actually kind of accurate.

    5. fposte*

      Heh–that’s why I chose her. My power is bring order to family chaos through good manners and firmness of purpose.

    6. Kathenus*

      Since my username is a mashup of pet names…

      Superhero – combine all the best of pets to be an awesome companion to all

      Villian – use all the bad habits and evil tendencies of pets to wreak havoc on everyone and everything

    7. Jean (just Jean)*

      Great question!
      I can …. clone other people, and myself, for specific tasks. When the challenge is met, both clones merge back into the original self. This would be highly useful for having a Difficult Conversation (brave self steps up while timid self spends self-care time in a beautiful garden), meeting deadlines (file your taxes or declutter your home in six days, no kidding!) or subduing otherwise unmanageable logistics (meet Uncle Asterix at the airport at 4 pm plus stage an entirely home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner at 6 pm).

    8. Filosofickle*

      I’m an inept villain who traps people with philosophical monologues that get everything slightly wrong in an absurd way

    9. Lifelong student*

      I can find the answer to esoteric questions- my partner these days is Mr. Google! But I also have a relationship with Library.

    10. Llama face!*

      Some people might call me a reformed villain. As a result of an inadvertent poison/transformation potion mixup I can transform my head into a llama’s and gain amazing spitting powers. Sarcasm is my natural talent. I am also extremely good looking and have a palace waterslide. Oh did I fail to mention I’m an emperor?

      (Figured I’d mashup my username reference with my super identity ;) )

    11. Admiral Thrawn Is Blue*

      Ha. I am the Star Wars’ verse greatest villain, with the sharpest mind possible. Calculating, never wrong in military matters, can outthink anyone.

    12. RagingADHD*

      I make easy things hard and hard things easy. I can bend the time-space continuum to make objects and hours disappear without a trace.

      I can shoot fireballs of rage out of my eyes, but not for long because I forget what I was mad about.

      I am rendered impervious to passive aggressive barbs and most types of interpersonal drama through my Cloak of Obliviousness.

    13. PollyQ*

      Half-woman, half-parrot who is part of ST:TNG’s Q continuum, so infinite powers + immortality, I guess.

    14. DistantAudacity*

      I stand, posing dramatically, and gaze into the distance.

      Sometimes I vanquish evil from afar by muttering under my breath.

    15. RandomInfo*

      As a villain, I distract the hero with floods of information. Nothing useful can be accomplished.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I am a strange character in the background. I challenge the protagonist to use swing sets and carousels. To indulge in occasional childhood favorite snacks. To dance, sing, and make art — because these things are natural to all humans not just a few trained experts. To play with words and each other. To fall down and cry a little then laugh and try again. To use running sentences that celebrate every detail that strikes their fancy.

    17. something*

      Looks like I’ll get a random power each time I activate the “something” ability. It’s hard to plan around, but sometimes it’s pretty useful!

    18. It's Quarantime!*

      ….I don’t want to think about it.

      But I’m more of a side-kick that shows up to spout the catch phrase as the bad guys are led away to solitary confinement.

    19. Macaroni Penguin*

      With my army of mischievous penguins, I will take over the world! No one believes that my superhero name is actually just my real name. My mortal enemies don’t believe I actually exist. So I can get away with anything, and still pose as a responsible individual in society.* I can also make fantastic pasta from scratch. In my spare time, I volunteer as a Canadian Cultural liaison and bring Kraft Dinner to Children’s Hospitals.

      *I seriously did not believe that macaroni penguins were an actual species.*

    20. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I channel all the energy of women’s hot flashes then scrunch up my face and send out brainwaves which cause people to interact with each other in a civil manner. And then have a cup of cocoa and a nap. I also wear a cape, boots, and a brain-magnification helmet, and can fly a bit when the energy is strong.

    21. Marion Ravenwood*

      I’m apparently very good at using my feminine charms to take out sleazy British archaeologists (and other villains).

    22. Be kind, rewind*


      Now that I got that out of the way, my superpower is arranging the most beautiful new release wall you’ve ever seen and getting entitled rich people to pay for late fees.

    23. Chaordic One*

      I create order out of chaos and I create chaos out of order. There’s a method to my madness (sort of like string theory). I’m great at editing, curating, alphabetizing, arranging things in numerical order, cross-referencing and color coding, at creating understanding and presenting information in logical, easy-to-follow, step-by-step formats. When I create chaos it is with the intention of shaking things up, keeping people mindful, on their toes and of not getting rigid or compliant for compliance’s sake, of not getting boring.

    24. Smol Book Wizard*

      Well, I named myself after Caleb Widogast from Critrole, so… I’m an autistic transmutation wizard with an academic trauma background?
      Alternatively, a smol wizard who carries around books all the time and recalls random facts from them to save the day now and again.

    25. The Smiling Pug*

      Through the power of smiling, I, a little pug, save the day through the power of reflecting power off my pearly white little teeth. :)

  30. Dental patient*

    Apologies if this is too serious for this thread. I went to the dental surgeon recently, and he made a really inappropriate joke about domestic violence (not that there are any appropriate jokes about this!). I sort of stammered a response, but I want to do more — maybe write a letter to the dentist in charge of the practice. Any suggestions?

    1. sagewhiz*

      Report it to both the local-area and state dental societies! Heck, I’d even report it to the Amer Dental Assoc (if you’re in the US) … says this long-ago editor of our state’s dental journal.

    2. heckofabecca*

      Yes!!! Do it!!! Please!!!

      You can also leave a review online, which organizations tend to be very quick to respond to. But there are so many people who would be grateful to know that a) this dentist is someone to avoid, and b) how the practice responds!

    3. A313*

      Hmm. I guess I differ from the other 2 responses. I would say something to the dentist myself or write him a letter. Maybe? it was a one-off or maybe it’s something he does all the time, but if I couldn’t tell/didn’t know which, I would prefer to assume the former and not go harder on him until it’s clearer. But you were there, and your comfort with how to handle it is your call.

    4. Dental patient*

      Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely file a complaint with the state board and maybe the local dental society.

      1. Dental patient*

        A313 – I’m supposed to see the surgeon again in a couple weeks, so I’ll see what happens then too.

        1. sagewhiz*

          You might want to wait until after the follow-up visit before filing the (justifiable) complaint. For 2 reasons: 1) in case something else egregious occurs that should be included and 2) in case your report gets back to him before the visit—you can’t be sure your name will be kept out of it. But def do not go back to him after that. And tell your own dds, who will likely never refer another patient to the dude. Seriously, docs want to know things like this.

        2. A313*

          This is what I think I would do, but I can also see the case for this being so out-out-bounds that you feel differently. But as sagewhiz points out, you want to do this after he completes your care and maybe you’ll get more information either way.

    5. Liane the Wayfarer*

      This seems so excessive. For a single joke? Even a bad one? To threaten someone’s job over a joke?? How awful was it? Was it like the equivalent of a joke using the N word or something? How did it even come up?!

      Write a letter, take your business elsewhere, leave a bad review, but reporting to the board? I think that should be reserved for malpractice, sanitation violations, serious violations of the law, really bad treatment of yourself or someone vulnerable.

        1. sagewhiz*

          The reason to report it to the board is that it’s likely this dds has been offending patients for years, and they’ve either received other complaints or patients don’t even realize they should be lodging complaints. It’s like pretending “oh he didn’t really mean to sexually harass Sue in the elevator.” Also, if a guy is joking about domestic violence, it’s quite possible he’s an abuser and his colleagues may have heard rumors to that effect. He needs to be put on notice. No prof assn wants to be sullied by a bad member.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        A “joke” about domestic violence is anything but. It’s right up there with racial/ethnic “jokes.” Especially in a professional setting! Not ok! Dental professionals are mandated reporters in most states, which makes this especially not ok!

        My state’s medical board (which I believe also covers oral surgeons, though not regular dentists) lists “inappropriate conduct” as a reason to report, so yeah this is probably in their jurisdiction. If this is a first incident, he’ll get at most a reprimand, which should be enough to keep it from happening again. If this is a second or third incident, well, I’d argue that this is not a person who should be in charge of anyone’s health, dental or otherwise.

  31. OTGW*

    Any tips on looking like you don’t have a gender?

    I’m kinda exploring my gender (cisfem technically but I feel pretty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it all) and want to look less female. I already wear pretty neutral clothing (pants, loose shirts, etc.) but I’m wondering if there’s more?I’m not willing to change my hair though, which is pretty long. I hate having my hair short.

    Thanks for any help :)

    1. heckofabecca*

      Fellow afab gender-explorer here :) It’s a fun place to be!

      There are hairstyles for long hair that are more or less feminine—I personally tend towards quite feminine, so I’m not *as* familiar, but I know there are things you can play with there.
      … I was going to say something about how much of gender presentation is culture-specific but then I remembered ALL of gender presentation is culture-specific. But there are a lot of places to draw inspiration from in terms of hair, and other things!

      Best of luck in your journey!

    2. wkfauna*

      I think the key is to remove styling details that look explicitly female, and push your figure towards neutral in a way that looks intentional rather than sloppy.

      It’s pretty surprising how readily people key in on weird little details like your shoes (even “female” versions of male classics look immediately female), the height of the waist of your jeans, your watch, your glasses, etc. You can source this kind of stuff in the men’s (or boys) department, but be careful to have them still fit your frame.

      For neutralizing your figure, ideally you need clothing that fits at anchor points like your shoulders or your waist, and then skims over curves. You can get stuff altered if needed, but be aware that most alterations places I’ve gone to have been *very* reluctant to help me with this stuff. Your best bet if you go this route is to go to places that explicitly only do men’s alterations, and assure them repeatedly you want men’s alterations :D

      I’ve found a lot of inspiration in browsing androgynous men’s looks from Asia on Pinterest. There are a lot of interesting silhouettes and stylings that to me look genderless rather than “coded male on a female”. You can get a lot of this stuff on Amazon for pretty cheap, too, though it took me a few tries to find the right incantation of search terms.

      Good luck! And have fun! I sure am :D

      1. wkfauna*

        Oh and a few more random ideas.

        Makeup-wise you can do boy contouring on your face, it’s surprisingly easy and surprisingly effective at attenuating feminine markers.

        For your hair you might explore getting an undershave and sometimes pinning the rest up in a way that looks like short hair.

    3. int*

      If you really want to, you could try a binder (or a flattening bra if you don’t want to go full blown binder) – that, combined with baggier tops, can make you look pretty androgynous

    4. I am a unicorn but not your unicorn*

      Definitely look at your accessories. Male-coded belts, shoes, etc. will really help. Wear more ball caps. Also, men’s clothing is going more fitted, amusingly enough, but dude’s skinnies (for example) still look different than female-coded skinnies – the denim is heavier, they’re skinny but not painted on, etc. Poshmark is your friend while you’re trying things and don’t want to spend a ton of money.

      Definitely squish your chest – I prefer a size down on sports bras than binders, but your mileage may vary. Polo shirts are also kinder to those of us with chests and hips than button downs, and novelty prints have come to men’s clothing, so men’s polos can are pretty delightfully genderqueer now.

      Autostraddle, if you just go and search for “clothes” has a lot of things to say, ergo: https://www.autostraddle.com/basic-butch-style-eight-hour-layover/

      Google pics of dudes or genderqueer folks with long hair and see whose style you like to get ideas about hair. I LOVE Steve Aoki’s hair, for example, and he just wears it down.

      Also, don’t laugh at me, but Googling “softball lesbian” may give you some ideas, too.

      If you’re not already wearing ‘men’s’ underwear, give it a go – when I wake up on the masculine side of the bed, underwear choice definitely helps. We dress from the inside out, after all. It might take some experimentation to see what you like; I’m a boxer brief or briefs person, myself.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Off topic: I hate how women’s jeans are no longer denim. I don’t mind the stretchy material for dressy jeans.

        There are times when I want thick denim for warmth/wind block and ruggedness and I can’t find that in the store.

        On topic: material of an item can transform it from men’s to women’s. Women’s is always less rugged and long lasting.

    5. Kal*

      I’m nonbinary but haven’t dealt with it too much since my body’s features mean people always read me as female, so I don’t bother too much trying to dress myself to reject that. But my partner is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯gender (though we often just call it agender to make it somewhat easier to explain) and from their experience – trying not to be read as having a gender is hard. Society is still at a point where most people try to fit anyone they meet into male or female, so my partner still gets gendered, but now it just happens to end up a mix of “him” from some people and “her” from others.

      Other people have given specific tips for dressing, but the biggest tip I can give is to wear whatever you can find that makes you feel more comfortable in your body, no matter if it comes from the womens section, mens, childrens or whatever. This obviously isn’t an easy process any means, even if you’re not trans or dealing with Big Gender Feels.

      But you’re far from alone, and if you keep an eye out you might find communities around you for people who are exploring and experimenting with their gender presentation, and many are open to people who don’t feel like they are necessarily trans or nonbinary.

  32. newbie*

    I’ve been obsessing over a bike I saw on ebay last week. It’s in my size, and checks the boxes for what I want in a commuter (if anything, is overkill). I’m currently commuting on my road bike, which, while zippy, is killing my shoes (well, specifically my left shoe). Carbon soled road shoes are not meant to be unclipped at every freaking red light. It would be nice to be able to do more errands, not have to kit up for every ride and have various options for carrying stuff other than a backpack.
    The answer is always n+1, right?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      *flutter flutter flutter*
      If it wouldn’t cause you financial hardship, do it!
      *flutter flutter flutter*

    2. Angstrom*

      In the short term, you could swap to flat pedals, clip in pedal adapters so you could use street shoes, or switch to SPDs which are walking-friendly. A clip-on rear fender helps prevent the wet-road skunk stripe.

      But you’re right — for commuting flat bars, full fenders and a rack make a lot of sense.

    3. German Girl*

      Yay for a good commuter bike. On mine, I can get somewhere pretty fast if I don’t have much stuff with me, or I can haul a weeks worth of groceries home with two pannier bags, a backpack and maybe one or two small light tote bags on the handle bar. I barely use my car these days except when it’s raining cats and dogs.

  33. Agjmss*

    My boyfriend and I are in our 40s but haven’t had a lot of dating experience overall. We’ve been together 7 yrs and are having a rough patch. I would like to learn techniques for succeeding at a relationship. We’re open to counseling, but prefer it to be the kind where you learn communication skills, etc and don’t just talk about your feelings weekly for years. Is there a name for this kind of therapy? Or are there books or videos where we just do some work ourselves? We’ve never done therapy and don’t want to have to go weekly but feel like there are probably great techniques out there that we don’t know about since we haven’t had many relationships. Thanks in advance!

    1. heckofabecca*

      I’d look into CBT-inspired or CBT-based couples counseling! Family system therapy also.

      I will say that sitting and talking about things (including feelings) does help in determining where to go, so that will be the beginning. In my couples therapy experience, we had 1 group session, each saw the therapist individually, and came together for a 4th session before we started working really seriously as a team. So it’s not a years-long thing—but feelings will be discussed :)

      1. Llama face!*

        I second this recommendation.
        And just to clarify for Agjmss*, CBT in this context stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

    2. fposte*

      I think a lot of couples counseling is focused on communication, but you’re also the customer here, so you can ask for what you want. Use the paragraph you wrote as a template and ask if that’s a focus they can provide.

      Also, I heartily recommend the books of John Gottman, who revolutionized the field, and whose work is very communication focused. Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is probably a good place to start.

      1. Zenobia*

        Partner and I are working with a counselor trained in the Gottman method. We found it tricky to apply the book content; the counselor does a great job facilitating while we practice the strategies!

    3. Anona*

      My husband and I are in couples counseling. Some of it is talking about feelings, but a lot of it is strategies. We started out weekly, went down to twice a month, and now are monthly. All by zoom. It’s been great! I wish we had done it years ago. We just looked for someone using the search tool on the Psychology today website. We looked for someone who listed relationship issues as one of their specialties.

    4. LNLN*

      Our marriage greatly improved when my husband and I worked on it. We’re up to 42 years now! The most helpful resources were books by 3 different authors: John Gottman, Harville Hendrix and Harriet Lerner. Gottman and Hendrix both have books with specific exercises/activities to do together. I wish you well!

    5. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      When my now hubs and I were about 2 2/1 – 3 years into our relationship, living together, we hit a really rough patch. We argued ALL the time. I finally asked him if he wanted to split up and he said, no! That I was the person he wanted to be with.
      So we went to ‘marriage’ counceling. Our therapist was great, and we still use the tools that we learned. That was about 36 years ago. We’ve now been together for 39 years and married for 34. We still like each other, laugh a lot and we still hold hands.

    6. MissCoco*

      I really appreciate the Gottman institute for their articles and tips. They have some “courses” which are paid, and I’ve never tried, but my partner and I have talked over things when we are going through rough patches, sometimes naming what’s going on can be really helpful
      I think this winter we may read one of his books together

    7. lasslisa*

      I got some counseling through my work’s EAP (from an MFT), and found the limited number of sessions plus coming in with a specific problem really helped me make progress. It’s definitely worth a try. It did take me several tries to find someone who could think outside the box in specific ways I needed, but in general I found it very very helpful.

  34. Just Tell Me What to Do*

    I am facing the unthinkable with my spouse, but praying for a miracle. We are married, with kids, no will. He handles all of our finances. I do not have a job. Our health insurance is through his employer. What do I need to do? Is there anything I should try to do while he is still technically alive? Please just help me make a list. What do I do right now? What do I do if my worst nightmare comes true? Please help me figure out my immediate steps for now and after.

    1. newbie*

      I’m very sorry.
      Get your hands on important papers proving you’re married.
      Ask local friends for estate lawyer recommendations. If he pulls through, you’ll want work with one anyway to get all your planning done.
      Ensure you can access all accounts and will continue to have access if he passes.

      1. Observer*

        Get your hands on every piece of paper proving joint ownership of any assets you actually jointly own.

        Go through every piece of paper and document you can find to make a list of every account your names are one, and any and all user name / password for accounts.

        If you know the login / password of any bank accounts that have only your husband’s name on them, transfer a good chunk of that money to account(s) with both your names on them.

    2. Just Tell Me What to Do*

      I forgot. He’s not conscious so I can’t ask him anything. I wish he could tell me what to do.

    3. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I am so very sorry.

      When my dad was going to be passing and I had power of attorney, I made sure to move sufficient assets into the account with both of our names on it — do you have a joint checking? — so that I would be able to have money to pay for the funeral and other expenses. (The power of attorney expired when he died, so I had to move the $ ASAP, or I would have had no access to his money for a while.)

      You might want to talk to your local funeral home before he passes so that you have things planned out with them that are within your budget. Funeral for my dad cost about $12K, NOT including the gravesite, which he had pre-paid, but there are cheaper options out there, like cremation.

      After he passes, get a whole bunch of copies of the death certificate — you will need them for all sorts of things. In my state, we can get those through the funeral home. I had to pay, but not too much. Actually, YMMV, but the funeral director I spoke with was a really good resource for “what you need to do right after someone dies” information.

      I second the advice to talk to the financial institutions and an estate lawyer now. Maybe the estate lawyer can help insure access to the accounts for you after he passes.

      Also, look into hiring an accountant to do your and his and the estate’s taxes — they will be complicated this year.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        Update: see Teapot Translator below, who says that not all states give you access to a joint account on one party’s passing.

    4. Be the Change*

      I don’t have advice, but sending waves of love your way wherever you are. I’m so, so sorry this is happening and I pray for a miracle for you too.

      …one practical thought, is there a chaplain or social worker available, assuming you are at a hospital? They may be able to provide guidance.

    5. Teapot Translator*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this.
      Maybe contact the HR department at his workplace so they can give you the information you need for the health insurance?
      If you don’t have access to the bank account because he’s the one who handles it usually, go to the bank and ask for access (I assume here that both your names are on the bank account).
      If both your names are on the bank account, open a bank account in your name only (if you don’t have one yet) and forward some money to it. If the worse does come to pass, and your jurisdiction works like mine, the accounts will be frozen when the bank learns of his death even if it’s a joint account.

    6. Undine*

      I’m really sorry you’re going through this.

      A lot of bank stuff can be done online. You can sign up for your own online account with the banks and you should be able to see all your joint accounts.

      It’s also helpful if you know his email password, because then you can change passwords on any accounts he is managing and see any online bill reminders and so on.

      I don’t know if you can contact HR at his company. I think you might be able to continue his health insurance under COBRA even without him, if so, that might be worth doing in those first few chaotic months. If you are working at a job with health insurance, this will qualify for you to switch over, and the same thing for Obamacare. Also if they can tell you if he has life insurance, and what the company name is. They sometimes carry one year’s salary even if he didn’t sign up for it.

      Is there anyone you can enlist, a sibling or a friend, who is more used to handling money and can be there, even thru zoom, while you do some of this?

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        You should contact his employer’s HR department. You should be able to keep COBRA for 18 months, although you will need to pay the premiums, but at least you’ll have health insurance for you and your family. The HR department can also walk you through any other benefits he has through work, such as short term and long term disability insurance, life insurance and any balances he may have in any accounts (such as an HSA and FSA)
        Please talk to the person/people who does your taxes and investments. Also to your husband’s doctor about any support groups that may be relevant for your situation, for both you and your kids. There are many associated with hospitals and the like.
        I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Just take things one day at a time and know that we are all here for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

    7. fposte*

      Oh, no, I’m so sorry. If he’s in the hospital, please ask if they have a social worker you can talk to, who will likely have experience and information that you’d find helpful.

      If he’s not conscious and you don’t already have a power of attorney, you won’t be able to access financials in his name only, so I would say the earlier you can see a lawyer the better–I’d look at recommendations this weekend and make an appointment Monday, because you’ll feel better having knowledge ASAP. A lot of what will happen with his estate depends on what state you’re in–it might be a simple thing in some states and more complicated in others. Also ask explicitly about your husband’s hospital bills and how they’d be handled. If your husband has any life insurance, maybe through his work, that’s really important to pin down, as that passes outside the estate so you may be able to get faster access to it.

      Practically speaking, I’d figure out how much money I’d have access to on my own and figure out what the payment priorities are and where slack can be cut; I’d also list what payments need to be moved to my name. Usually rent/mortgage would be first priority; utilities are often lenient and will wait a little, so I’d contact them and ask for some forbearance. Don’t forget anything car related, such as payments and insurance, if they’re relevant.

      There’s a regular poster here, OyHiOh, who was in a similar situation a few years back and she may have some useful suggestions as well. And I hope none of this turns out to be necessary for you.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I am so very sorry that you are facing this.

      If it were me, I would consult an estates and trusts lawyer first thing Monday morning. If your husband is unconscious, you might be able to get financial power of attorney fairly easily in order to ensure cash liquidity for your/his immediate needs. The lawyer should also be able to give you better guidance about your larger question.

      It’s also possible that your husband’s employer’s EAP could help you, especially since he’s ill so you are also looking for ways to assist him.

      My other advice is to line up some immediate support for you. You need someone to help you interface with the hospital and your husband’s immediate medical care; to sort out future arrangements whether those are in-home care or whether they involve funeral planning; and someone to help you sort out your financial options. These don’t need to be the same person and probably shouldn’t be. Please reach out to your network if you have one. If you don’t, talk to the hospital social worker and to your husband’s employer and try to get as much support as you can.

      My thoughts and very best wishes to you and your husband.

    9. Just Tell Me What to Do*

      I do not have a credit card in my name. I am an authorized user on our current card. Should I open a card now under my name while I can truthfully report his income? Will that cause problems with my credit score or something else I’m not thinking about right now?

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I would call the credit cards company and see if they can change the card to your name. But opening a new one just under you is a good idea too.
        Good luck. I posted more above as well

        1. twocents*

          I can only speak for how the bank I work for works, but there is no situation in which we’d change the signer. To make the authorized user now the signer is effectively a request for a new credit card and would be treated as such. The original signer (not the authorized user) would have to make the request to add another co-signer or to close the card, but short of bankruptcy or death, that signer is stuck on that card.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I’m in banking and I agree. We wouldn’t change the accountholder, either. The authorized user would need to apply for their own card.

            OP, if you don’t have a credit card in your name at all, you should apply for one regardless of whether your husband pulls through or not. You never know when you’ll need it for something.

      2. twocents*

        If you’re only an authorized user, then his card will almost be certainly frozen upon his passing, because authorized users aren’t liable parties like co-signers are. If that’s your sole access to credit, and you have no other finances easily available, then yes, definitely get your own card. It will affect your credit score — but so much stuff does that as your only credit line, it really isn’t going to be a big deal.

      3. Bibliovore*

        I know this is late but I hope it is helpful. Treat yourself like you are in shock or have a traumatic brain injury.
        Now is the time to lean on family or friends that you trust.
        The smartest thing my brother did was march me into COSTCO and apply for their Visa card. I put down our family income and within a week had a credit card that was in my name only.
        Do not rush to take his name off joint accounts. That caused me problems paying automatic bills.
        Figure out passwords.
        Fortunately my husbands were super obvious.
        Find the car titles, house deed, and any outstanding loan or mortgage payment info I am so sorry you are going through this.

    10. Jean (just Jean)*

      Another AAM reader sending you good wishes and prayers. I hope you find compassionate, helpful, supportive people at the hospital; in HR at your husband’s employer; and among your neighbors, family, friends (listed in no particular order) and other people in your network. If you are a member of any group or organization (book club, mom group, congregation, PTA, scouts…) reach out. There is always someone who is glad to help.

      I second what others have said about hospital social workers. They may be over-extended but they got into their line of work because they want to help others.

      Take as much care of yourself as you can regarding food, liquids, and rest. Keep a notebook (or smart phone) with you and a file folder or box at home so that all the details are at least in one place. Later you can sort things out further. Finally, trust yourself to do the best that you can in this awful situation. You’ve already begun, by reaching out. Take care.

    11. Jean (just Jean)*

      Came back to emphasize the last sentences of two other commenters.
      From fposte: “And I hope none of this turns out to be necessary for you.”
      From Chauncy Gardener: “Just take things one day at a time and know that we are all here for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!”

    12. Wishing You Well*

      I am so sorry you’re experiencing this.
      See a lawyer. You really need legal advice specific to the place where you live. (For example: where I live, safe deposit boxes are sealed until the estate is settled, so empty it now.)
      I am very sorry.

    13. Tib*

      Bank: get an account in your own name at a different bank and try and set a starting goal for 1 month of living expenses. A quick way to calculate that would be to assume your housing payment is 30% of what you need. A credit union might be a good choice.
      Credit card: open one in your name. Credit unions often offer credit cards, and so the bank balance may count in your favor toward applying for the card. Transfer a small bill, like a streaming service, to the card and pay it off, on time, every month. Schedule auto pay through your bank to make sure it happens.
      Housing: Are you listed on the lease/mortgage? What are the utilities? When does the lease renew, can you go month to month, are you on good terms with the leasing agent? Do you want to stay? Common advice is to not make any drastic changes for the first year if you can, but do what you have to do.
      Health Insurance: you can go COBRA, but you may not want to. It is pretty expensive and you can probably get a cheaper policy through the marketplace. COBRA could be good for a couple of months but a key question is: is voluntarily cancelling COBRA considered a “qualifying event” for the marketplace or would you have to wait until the open enrollment period? If cancelling cobra isn’t a qualifying event, then you’ll probably want to go straight to the marketplace (healthcare.gov). Many states have agents who will help you find the best policy for you and you could get that planned out now.
      Car: whose name is on the title and loans, if any? When is the registration due? (usually the birth month of the person on the title)
      Accounts, life insurance, retirement funds: Are you listed as the primary beneficiary?
      Financial Records: Your husband may have a system, but it’s important for you to know where things are and if you need to organize things differently, then do it. You could get some bright postits and mark where things are stored, or you can corral the important documents into your own storage container and system. Piled in a giant plastic tote in the living room is a system, so don’t think you have to be fancy. I recommend a shoe-box sized box or drawer for things like marriage/birth certificates, social security cards, checkbook, etc.
      Certificates: when getting copies, always ask for about 5 more than you think you need. The first one is always more expensive, and copies are very cheap.

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope it all works out for you and your family.

      1. Florida Woman*

        This is a great list from Tib. A few other things:
        Online access: You will need to quickly get online access to all bank, utility, etc. accounts. If your family is like mine, 100% of our expenses including credit card payments are paid online. But some things are on auto-deduct from the bank account, some are auto-pay via credit card, and some require me to log in and initiate a payment. It would be great if you have a trusted friend or family member who can go through everything and figure out how and how much you pay for rent/mortgage, utilities (electric, water, trash collection, internet, cable, etc.), car payment, car insurance, property insurance (maybe included in your mortgage), etc. This will help you figure out your base living expenses and let you know how much cash you have on hand. It will also give you the info to pause services (if you want) and a list of accounts that you will eventually put in your name.
        Life Insurance: This will be your best source of income before you get a job, so make sure you know the provider and find out what is needed to make a claim (what forms and where to send).
        Funeral arrangements: Funeral homes generally handle everything but there are plenty of questions they will ask about your preferences and various add-on services that are available. It can be helpful to have a friend or relative come with you when you make arrangements, especially if you don’t want to be pressured into spending extra $$ unnecessarily. You do not HAVE to ride in a limo to the cemetery.

        I’m so sorry about your situation. This random person from the internet is sending sympathy to you and your kids during this difficult time.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          My one useful thought is to find the account and account login and passwords now. If your husband wrote them down or if they are saved in your computer password manager and you can get them do so.

          Legally if it’s not a joint account you probably can’t do anything with it but knowing what accounts you have and where money is stored and going is important.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      There’s a lot of good advice here.

      I am going to repeat the advice of my very loving aunt. She said to me, “now is not the time to be proud or to show how independent and resourceful you are. This is a life changing event.” She advised asking for help and accepting help that is offered. It’s in these exchanges- asking/accepting that new friendships are formed. And this is an important time in life to find good people and let them befriend you.

      My friends carried me though my husband’s illness and passing. Each friend had something different to offer, but each of their offerings was so meaningful and so important to me.
      If you have a religious inclination, churches (other religious groups) can be key in staying afloat.

      Gather a group of professionals (lawyer, docs, even counselors) to help you. Also gather a non-professional group of friends, neighbors and comfy acquaintances to help with random stuff that comes up. If you have to make a list and put it on the fridge or by your land line if you have one. Don’t force yourself to go it alone when you see other options available. My pastor took me to the funeral home to make arrangements. Eh, no one else was available that day. I would have preferred not to burden him, but I had to take the option that was available. This is one of those times in life where we must grab whatever life preserver that gets thrown in our direction. It’s okay.

      As others have said, keep coming back on Saturdays. Sadly, there are plenty of people here who know what you are talking about. Go one day at a time, do your best each day. Then allow yourself to accept the fact, “This is the best I can do today.” Give yourself that gift.

    15. Fastest Thumb in the West*

      My husband was in a coma, on life support, for three weeks and was not expected to live. And then he did, and made a complete recovery that stumped the entire hospital. He also did not have a will, was our main income, and we have kids. All our ducks are in a row now. I hope your husband beats the odds, too.

    16. Just Tell Me What to Do*

      Thank you so much for the replies. I felt overwhelmed yesterday and just shut down. I have a strong support network but I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t paid a bill in years. I should have paid more attention when he talked to me about money. I will never take him for granted again. Today I am going to try to get a credit card, open a bank account, and find a lawyer. Mostly I’m praying that he recovers. Thank you AAM community.

      1. Me again*

        I really hope he pulls through. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you.

        It’s a good reminder for everyone to make sure your spouse/partner etc knows where the keys to the castle are. My mother lost her husband recently and while they had pretty much separate accounts, she’s still working to get into some of his to stop some autopay bills. It’s hard and frustrating for her to spend so much time on the phone trying to resolve all of the issues.

      2. Not A Manager*

        I’ll be thinking of you and your husband over the upcoming week. I’m so glad you have a good support network – please lean into that.

    17. Observer*

      The single most important thing you can do in the worst case is IMMEDIATELY get a lot of copies of the death certificate. It’s going to be the key document for taking care of a lot of the details you are going to have to deal with. Having those copies is going to REALLY make your life easier at a time where every little bit is going to help.

  35. ObserverCN*

    Any other baseball fans here? It’s the postseason, and I’m rooting for the Dodgers because A) I’m a Nationals fan and I hate Atlanta; B) I can’t root for the Astros and Red Sox because of the Astros’ cheating and Alex Cora; and C) I’d be happy for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner if they won another ring.

    1. Elle Woods*

      I’m a HUGE baseball fan. (Go Twins!) Like you I can’t root for the Astros because of the cheating scandal from 2017 and by extension, Alex Cora and the Red Sox. The only reason I’d like to see the Braves win is because a couple of former Twins (Rosario, Adrianza) are on their roster.

    2. AY*

      As a, ahem, Guardians fan (seems weird but I’ll get used to it), I agree that the Dodgers are the only choice out there! I still hate Atlanta because of the ’95 World Series, and I can’t stand the cheating ALCS teams. I hope the Dodgers get a chance to kick the crap out of the Astros in the World Series. Justice.

    3. Brave Little Roaster*

      Another Nationals fan here and I agree, but I was hoping to see the Rays and Brewers get further in the postseason so I’m already disappointed :(

    4. The Dude Abides*

      White Sox fan adjacent to die-hard Cardinal fans.

      Now that my team is out, I’m rooting for the Braves. My father his siblings both graduated from Macon, so I’m rooting for Snitker.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I’m not a big baseball fan but when I lived in Tampa I was a Rays fan.

      I always root against Boston and the Yankees. They are rich bullies pushing others around by throwing money around. Hope they lose.

    6. Yay baseball!*

      Yes, loving the postseason! I’m rooting for the Dodgers! I hated the way the last game ended against the Giants though. Trea Turner is adorable, but he needs to start hitting like he did in the regular season. Mad Max is definitely an entertaining guy! I’m so glad those two on are on the Dodgers. I’d also love to see a rematch against the cheating Astros for the World Series and see the Dodgers whomp them in four games, ha ha

    7. BrewersFan*

      Yeahhhhh it’s a rough postseason.
      – Can’t root for the Braves — the tomahawk chop just makes my skin crawl. I can’t believe they show it on TV over and over.
      – Astros… cheating.
      – Red Sox… ditto.

      I guess it’s the Dodgers? But oh man.

      Every single division series went the opposite of my rooting interests.

  36. Squirrel Nutkin*

    I am going to be traveling (long cross-country plane flight) in a week and staying in a hotel for a couple of days for the first time in a couple of years after a relatively cloistered time throughout most of the pandemic. Anyone have any pandemic safety tips for air travel/hotel stays that made you feel less anxious? I’m a wreck.

    1. fposte*

      I haven’t traveled by plane, but I’ve done hotels and I didn’t find them particularly worrying. It’s pretty easy to keep your distance from people and you’re not in proximity for very long. Be extra patient not just because of COVID but also staff shortages (that may mean, for instance, that housekeeping doesn’t go into your room every day). I had very good luck with elevators, but that’s where I’d probably be most cautious and be willing to wait for another (or take stairs). You didn’t mention restaurants–I’m still not super gung ho about eating inside restaurants and either have done carryout or eaten in non-crowded restaurants.

    2. James*

      I’ve been traveling almost the entire pandemic, due to the nature of my job. Unfortunately I’ve only been driving, so I have no air travel recommendations. There are a few things you can do to make yourself safer driving and staying in a hotel. The gist is, avoid contact where possible.

      Following these recommendations has kept probably 30 people virus-free over the past two years, so they’re fairly effective.

      1) Ask that your room not be cleaned while you’re there. That way you’re the only one in the hotel.
      2) Either pack your meals, or have them delivered. That way you’re not out in a restaurant.
      3) Take drinks and snacks with you. That way you don’t go into gas stations.
      4) Get vaccinated, wear masks, all that good stuff.

    3. Opinions, I've Had a Few*

      Wear a really good mask for the airport and flight. I normally wear a double layer cloth mask but for flying I wear an N95. It’s probably overkill, but still. The airport is a greater risk of exposure than the plane itself.

      My doctor also advised against using the air nozzle above the plane seat because it sucks in air from the row both in front and in back so if someone is sick in either of those rows, you run a risk of exposure. Hand sanitizers and hand wipes are a must for air travel.

      Most hotels are going above and beyond with COVID precautions. Honestly, they’re being so cautious it takes away the fun of staying in a hotel. Your remote will probably be wrapped in plastic and some amenities may be reduced/cut (last hotel I stayed in last weekend was a Westin in Minneapolis and there was no room service at all nor was there housekeeping for stays under 3 nights unless specially requested and the bar/restaurant had severely reduced hours/menus).

      1. WellRed*

        I had the same hotel experiences (2 different hotels) in july. No housekeeping, curtailed amenities, the free breakfast was wrapped pastries instead of real food. And on and on though I suspect some issues were due to labor shortage.

    4. fueled by coffee*

      For flying: if you don’t already have one, buy a good-quality mask (KN95 or N95). Knowing that I was protected even if other people had their noses out or whatever (on the flight itself, flight attendants were very good at managing this, but the airport was pretty hit or miss).

      Eat before you get to the airport so you don’t have to sort it out there. For a longer trip or if you get hungry, bring snacks that don’t involve your hands touching the food (granola bars, a sandwich in a ziploc, etc.). I know surfaces aren’t the primary means of covid spread but I felt kind of gross eating pretzel sticks after touching stuff in the airport. Bring hand sanitizer (but under 3oz so you can take it on the plane!).

      I have heard that planes themselves are relatively safe because they have really good air filtration – so that might help your peace of mind.

    5. Not A Manager*

      KN95 for the airplane – I have one with straps that go over the ears, and one with straps that go around the head. I switch them out as they get uncomfortable/for different needs. (When I’m eating or drinking, I like the over-ear one so that I can replace it easily between bites.)

      Hand sanitizer; cleaning wipes; mask-friendly snacks and water bottle.

      I don’t find hotels to be very problematic. I used to wipe down the surfaces but I’ve mostly stopped doing that. We do open the windows when we arrive.

    6. acmx*

      I’ve traveled the whole time. I was vaccinated this past spring. This is a mostly travel experience than tips as I am comfortable traveling.

      My mask of choice is a surgical mask. Wear what you want. I see people double mask, wear a face shield, saw someone in paint suit. When you provide TSA your ID, you can wait to lower your mask until they ask.
      TSA allows up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer. I’ve only brought a key chain bottle and leave it attached to my backpack, so no issues. There is hand sanitizer throughout every airport I’ve been in.
      I have eaten in the airport. Early on, I just found space apart from others since the ventilation of airports isn’t really discussed.
      I’d pack snacks as food can be limited. The choices can be minimal and/or long lines and maybe not enough time during a connection.
      The air in large aircraft, the exchange rate of air is every 3-5 min. It’s a mix of air and it’s filtered. Advice was that using the air vents create turbulence (inside) which would push particles to the ground.
      Tip: bring an empty water bottle and fill it at the airport. This is just a general tip not pandemic related.

      Hotels will probably vary a lot depending on location. If you need airport transportation from the hotel, call them to ensure they are providing it, get on the list, find out the hours. Mask requirements are more based on the city/state requirements from what I’ve seen. I wear a mask in the elevator (and typically through the hotel but not always). Food also varies so inquire ahead. More hotels are offering a marketplace/pantry where you can get snacks and microwaveable meals.

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I flew long-haul UK to US and intra-Europe in the last six weeks and survived it all with no covid diagnosis. My parents also were driving three days cross country at the height of the start of the pandemic, to help out my brother in another sate and they didn’t catch it either. Our best tips:

      1) Get thee a good, comfortable mask at least at FFP2 level and wear it door to door. I used a Cambridge Mask Company mask on my flights and it held up well after 16 hours of non-stop wear. They are fabric with multiple filters and last a good few hundred hours before they need to be replaced. Paper or cloth masks will get wet and yuck real quick on a plane.

      2) Wash hands. Then wash them again. And what the hell, wash them one more time. Be aware of when you may be using your fingers to eat something and try not to do that.

      3) Bring hand sanitizer or wipes for the plane and wipe down arm rests and tray tables

      4) My parents were spraying down their hotel rooms with a 50/50 mix of alcohol and water, which seemed to work well for them. They also traveled with their own food and wiped down high use surfaces in hotel rooms

      5) I did a lateral flow test every week just to check and reassure myself

      6) Go with the flow. Things may not make sense, systems may not flow like you are used to, and everyone is stressed out about relearning the ropes on top of worrying about getting sick. Add extra time if you need to get to and through airports or checking in to hotels.

    8. something*

      Every time I’ve flown on United, the attendants gave each passenger an alcohol wipe upon entry to the plane so that we could wipe down our seats, etc. ourselves. If you’re flying on another airline, bring some of your own wipes in case they don’t give any out so you can do the same. I always double up with a cloth mask on top of an N95/KN95. I agree with the other advice to bring food that you don’t actually have to touch. If there are snacks/drinks being served on the plane, it may be a good idea to wait until other people have finished eating before going for your own. All the hotels I’ve been to defaulted to only cleaning between guests as opposed to the traditional daily cleanings, but it’s not a bad idea to check beforehand or to make that request when reserving a room.

      1. something*

        Oh, and the hotels were 50/50 as to whether they provided disinfecting wipes for guests to use or not. Again, might want to come prepared so you can wipe down door handles and tables.

    9. Retired Prof*

      Lots of good advice here already. I just wanted to add that we just started traveling again and flying turned out to be way less scary than I expected. Our Southwest flight was half empty and the three of us each had our own row at the back of the plane. The airport was the most masked place we were in once we left home and was not crowded. Hotels in the western states we were in had lots of unmasked people, but they were easy to avoid. We all wore KN95s and tested negative when we got home. I recommend Project N95 for your masks – they are a nonprofit that thoroughly vets everything they sell.

    10. I take tea*

      I am traveling right now, and I want to add: please, please, please, do not wear perfume on the flight! It’s always hard to sit beside someone with a lot of perfume, I tend to sneeze and cough from it, plus the headache of course. And with the mask on it’s like the smell gets trapped underneath and it gets really hard to breathe, even though I usually can wear a mask without any bigger problem than foggy glasses.

    11. Redhairedrunner*

      Airlines are very strictly enforcing masking right now. So don’t worry to much about your on plane time. I have always been able to find empty gates to sit and drink some water/ have a snack at all the airports I’ve been through in the last year and they do require masks in airports unless you are eating as well. As for hotels you can always skip housekeeping and just get fresh towels at the front desk if you need them.

    12. Lizzie (with a deaf cat)*

      Take your own pillow. I don’t think there’s much that’s more disgusting than pillows for containing sweat, saliva, mucus etc. Hotel pillows creep me out! In fact you don’t need to take your own favourite pillow, just take a pillow slip of your own and buy a really cheap pillow when you get to your destination, travel with it and then feel free to dispose of it rather than bring it home if you are short of space in your bag.

  37. Texan In Exile*

    And if you have pets, figure out what’s supposed to happen to them! That was the worst thing for Mr T. He had asked his parents several times before they died what plans they had for their cats.

    They had no plans.

    Mr T spent weeks trying to re-home the cats – he did not want to send them to a sanctuary. (And bringing them to our house was not an option – we already have two cats and his parents’ cats were mean.)

  38. Lotus*

    Dating thread! How goes your dating life.

    Mine…has stalled. Due to the fact that a lot of social activities are still on pause due to COVID, I’ve been exclusively on the apps since September. Last month I seemed to be getting a steady stream of matches and ongoing conversations, but they’ve suddenly seemed to dry up. One guy and I tried to meet but our schedules kept clashing and we eventually gave up on it lol. I decided to take a little break for now and delete the apps. I’m also trying to think of other ways to meet people but honestly don’t know how. I don’t have a robust enough social circle in this area to meet people in person, so eh.

    1. Angstrom*

      Maybe change your focus to “meet more people” instead of “find a partner”?

      Years ago when I was single and moved to a new city I wasn’t immediately looking to date, but I was absolutely determined not to spend evenings alone in my apartment. I found the locals listings for clubs and organizations and activities and classes and started going to anything that looked interesting. Ski club, origami club, dance class, public lectures at the university, cheese tasting, etc. — I went. Usually it was “Ok, interesting, but not for me”, but I don’t ever remember thinking “That was a waste of time”. I met interesting people, learned my way around town, found some new activities, and eventually did find a partner.

  39. Ali G*

    I think a few people mentioned here they use the Paprika app for their recipes – is that right? I have a question about it. I have a bunch of recipes saved on my computer in PDF form (so I print to PDF instead of paper and save them). Can these be easily uploaded into the app? I’m wondering how much work it’s going to be to transfer my recipes. If it’s a lot I’ll probably give up because I am lazy.
    Also I assume it’s a one time payment and then at some point I’ll have to upgrade?

    1. Formerly in HR*

      If you still have the source (e.g. in PDF you have the link), you can just click on the link, then open the app and download that recipe. Otherwise, you would need to copy paste sections and add recipes (the app allows saving recipes from URL, but also manually entering name/ ingredients/ directions and saving).

    2. Me again*

      I’ve used the paprika app for years on my phone. I love that it keeps my phone on the entire time so I don’t need to touch my phone to kept it from going dark.

      I’ve never upgraded. It’s never asked me to do so.

      If you don’t have the links printed on your PDFs, I’d spend a few minutes googling them to find them. Paprika downloads recipes quite well and quickly. I rarely enter a recipe manually.

    3. Double A*

      I love Paprika! I’ve only paid for it once, and I’ve re-downloaded it on several phones and just had to sign in. It’s like $5 for the phone app. I believe there is a computer desktop version that is more expensive, but it would be easier to enter recipes from PDFs.

      However, I don’t necessarily use paprika for every single recipe; if I have something in a cookbook, I still use the cookbook. So if I had a bunch of PDFs printed out I would probably just keep using those. At least, I wouldn’t go through the trouble of entering every single one. Paprika is great for browsing recipes online and then saving them. It does an excellent job of cutting out all the extra junk that’s on a recipe page.

      It’s definitely worth $5 to see if you like it. I find it super useful for grocery lists as well.

  40. Teal*

    I woke up this morning to a friend posting about #sprinklegate and I was rolling. Posting the article below.

    1. twocents*

      I can’t even imagine being the person who thought to themselves “I know, I should get a local bakery closed over sprinkles.” Like get a hobby!

    2. Bagpuss*

      It’s not trivial. The banned ingredient is an allergen, people who have the allergy, or whose kids have it, would expect anything with sprinkles to bed safe, as it’s not permitted. He could have killed someone.
      And it’s the baker who is refusing to use any of the readily available options, no one is trying to close the shop.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Ah, that makes more sense. We went through a period when my daughter was small, when she was not allergic but hypersensitive to yellow food dyes. Within a short time of eating it, she would become frighteningly out of control – not like normal “kid with sugar” jazzed up. Like, throwing herself against the wall, banging her head, screaming and kicking anyone who came near her.

        Freaked us completely out until we traced the problem. Slice of cake with white icing, jazzed but normal. Slice of same type of cake with yellow icing, psycho to the point of needing restraint so she wouldn’t hurt herself.

        If somebody slipped my kid an additive like that without me knowing it, I would be reporting them for sure.

      2. Teal*

        Agreed! Not trivial at all. I’m LOL’ing at “UK sprinkles taste like shit!” Sprinkles do not do it for me taste or texture wise, so all sprinkles taste crappy to me ;)

        It seems like there are a few ways this can end up: post a warning regarding the ingredients/additives, use different sprinkles/UK approved (which unlikely based on the owners comments), don’t use sprinkles at all, etc.

        1. PollyQ*

          Sprinkles do not do it for me taste or texture wise, so all sprinkles taste crappy to me

          Def agree with this! Those cakes that have a hidden core of sprinkles may photograph well, but I can’t imagine eating a whole mouthful of sprinkles.

        2. RagingADHD*

          It looks like the ingredient is totally banned and can’t be legally sold at all. So that would knock out the “post a warning” option.

          The baker is being a very precious widdle baby if he would rather close up than follow food safety laws. Makes you wonder if he thinks his unwashed hands make the food taste better, too?

          You don’t pick and choose which health regulations you feel like following.

          1. Daffodilly*

            It’s not, though! It’s legal in the UK but ONLY for making cocktail cherries for some reason. And totally legal in the US.
            And nothing I have seen says it’s an allergy issue. in higher doses it is possibly cancer causing.

            1. The Dogman*

              The colour definitely causes cancer. It is refined from petrol/gasoline.

              In the UK cocktail cherries are not intended for consumption for some reason (even though loads of people eat them) so that is a loophole. This colour is ok for decoration, but not consumption.

            2. RagingADHD*

              He’s in the UK. And he’s not using it in cherries. If it’s illegal for him to sell food with the sprinkles, then selling them with a warning is not an option.

          2. Observer*

            It looks like the ingredient is totally banned and can’t be legally sold at all. So that would knock out the “post a warning” option.

            No, it’s NOT totally banned. That’s how they were able to get it. What’s more it’s actually permitted in food that gets eaten.

        3. Kal*

          I like sprinkles (in small quantities), but they’re just little colourful lumps of sugary dough. So I really do not understand the fuss over the dye. You really, really do not need that specific colour of sugar lump for the cookie or cake to be tasty. Basically, the sprinkles are really not the actual reason why any of this nonsense is being discussed at all anyway. The baker’s absurd reaction to being told to follow a 30 year old law is real reason.

    3. The Dogman*

      Selling cancer causing chemicals to the British public is funny?

      Or being banned for selling cancer causing chemicals to the British public is funny?

      I am failing to see anything amusing, there is a man-child throwing a wobbler over not being allowed to give cancer to UK customers, there are tons of muppets having a go at the Trading Standards people for protecting us from cancer causing USA foods, there are people suggesting he carry on giving them out to customers who want the petrol based cancer sprinkles, others calling people who (like me) think that this guy should face much more severe consequences (in my field if I walk a Pitbull, a Dogo Argentino, a Tosa or a Ban dog I will be immediately arrested and imprisoned for “endangering” the public) evil or jobsworths etc.

      This is ridiculous, the story is a man broke food safety laws and is not being fined over it. He got lucky and should really shut up before someone at TS decides to fine him out of business.

      1. fposte*

        Even the UK doesn’t think it’s that likely to cause cancer, because it’s not a banned ingredient–it’s just a limited one. I’m a rule follower myself, so I wouldn’t bring Kindereggs into the US, for instance, but I wouldn’t consider somebody who did to be dealing death just because the US takes a different food safety view than other countries.

  41. Anon Today*

    I’m likely breaking up with a long-term partner who makes a lot more than I do. My standard of living is going to change pretty significantly. I’d like to talk to a financial advisor or some such person to get a sense of my financial future, how I might need to change retirement planning, etc. I know money basics, but don’t make much in salary and don’t have much in assets / investments except my retirement funds and my share of the house. Any advice on how to find a financial advisor? What questions I should be asking? Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      Sorry about that, but I’m glad you’ve decided that this is a move that’s worth it. Go to somebody who charges by the hour, which isn’t super-common but does exist. The Garrett Financial Network can be a good place to start. Do not go to somebody who wants to manage your assets for you and charges based on assets under management.

      Ask them what they want you to bring and they’ll likely tell you; probably it’ll be at least copies of the house title and mortgage papers, your 2020 W2 and 1040 forms, and information about your current bank and retirement accounts and options available within those accounts (meaning what companies your employer offers through those accounts).

      Figuring out the house is probably going to be the trickiest. Usually in such a case either one partner buys the other out or the asset is sold and the proceeds split. That second option can take awhile, especially if it’s a grudging solution. If you’re the lower earner, it’s usually best for you to be bought out and to use the proceeds for new housing; one of the most important things in managing your cost of living is your housing choice, so I’d go as cheap as you can stand at least for the short term.

      I also recommend William Bernstein’s free pamphlet If You Can and the book The Index Card for fairly simple explanations of retirement savings. The most complicated thing in doing it successfully, IMHO, is figuring out what BS to ignore, which is most financial discussion; the actual saving plan is pretty simple once you know what you’re going to do. (All that is aside from the actual amount of money you have, which is obviously a factor in its own right.)

      Good luck. I think it’s smart for you to think about how your finances will change and get such a plan in gear.

    2. Wishing You Well*

      Look for a CERTIFIED financial planner who is fee-only (as advised above, not one who charges a percentage of your assets or wants to manage your portfolio). There’s also the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Anyone can call themselves a financial planner – so find one who actually passed some tests!
      Best of Luck

    3. CJM*

      When I was looking for an estate attorney a few decades ago, I asked my work pals for recommendations. I usually ask friends, colleagues, and family members first to see if anyone I trust has found someone they can recommend in a particular area.

      I’d lay out my general goals just as you did here. I hope you can get a feel for responsiveness in an initial phone call and either feel good about making an appointment or move along to someone else.

      Good luck, and I hope things go well for you.

  42. Ruminating city dweller*

    Happy Saturday! I have a weird property advice question. I live in an older urban neighborbood (think rowhouses, not high rises). I have the smallest yard on my block and hate it for reasons I won’t enumerate, but are probably understandable to most people. It was clearly carved out of my next door neighbor’s large, oddly shaped p property. The current neighbor is a tenant who does basic maintenance but has never used the rear of the property directly behind my house for anything but piling brush, as far as I have seen. The owner lives in a nearby neighborhood but we haven’t met. I’d sort of like to offer to buy a small part of their property (like 750 sq ft) to enlarge my yard but I’m not sure a) how to approach the landlord/tenant dynamic and b) how to estimate the right price, tax assessment values per sq ft are all over the place on my street. What should i do first?

    1. Colette*

      I’d say talk to the landlord first. If she’s not receptive, that’s it. If she is, you’d probably need a real-estate lawyer.

    2. Ali G*

      To estimate your offer, look at your latest tax assessment. There should be 2 numbers: the value of the land and the value of the improvements (your home). Take the value of the land and divide it by the size of your lot to find out what to offer per square foot. The value of the land shouldn’t vary as much as the improvements.

      1. Ruminating city dweller*

        Thanks! I did this for my house and the ones on either side, and I think the relative value seems to have an inverse relationship to size of property. For instance, my neighbor’s is 12k sq ft and the tax assessment values it at $8/ft. Mine is 2400 valued at $25/ft. The other neighbor’s is more like 3500 and valued at $15/ft – I forget the exact numbers but their total land value (not improvements) is within a few hundred of mine despite having twice as much usable yard space. So it seems like there is a baseline “big enough to build a house on” value, and marginal value for additional space goes down from there. So is the value of another piece too small to build on $8/ft, $15/ft, $25/ft, or even more because market value and assessed value are not the same?

    3. Lifelong student*

      Might be problems in subdividing a city property. Before you make an offer, look into what might be legally required.

      1. Florida Woman*

        This is a good point. In addition to whatever you pay to the seller, you will probably also have to engage a land use lawyer to go through the process of getting the lot line adjustment approved. Depending on your jurisdiction, that could be simple or it could be a very cumbersome and expensive process. Might be worth checking with a lawyer to get an estimate of what that would cost before you make an offer to the neighbor.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some areas will let you split property but not recombine them. Do check with a lawyer, so you know you are not going to be stuck with two properties each being taxed separately.

    1. Girasol*

      I have a computer lens on my bifocals. Anything that helps me see better at screen distance helps with eyestrain. But at night I also use the app f.lux to dim and redden the screen to reduce eyestrain and the sort of blue light that can cause insomnia. F.lux is free and easy to install and comes with a number of choices for dimming level and schedule.

  43. Colette*

    Time for my annual question – what books should I buy the children in my life?

    Child 1 – grade 2, French immersion (so English or French books), has a dog and a cat, likes dancing and crafts.

    Child 2 – grade 5, slow reader, likes Shannon Hale and some graphic novels, plays football

    Child 3 – grade 6, very good/quick reader, likes Gordon Korman and the Rangers’ Apprentice series, into games (video and board games)


    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Grade 5: “Roller Girl” by Victoria Jamieson is a really great graphic novel, I think she has some others as well.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Grade 2: Beverly Cleary is great for that age, especially the Ramona books, although I think she has a standalone that involves a kid in dance class. Or check out A Mighty Girl, they definitely have a dance-themed book list that might give you ideas (you can also search their database by age/level as well as topic).

        Grade 5: Raina Telgemeier is another author that I think would appeal to a Shannon Hale fan.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Grade 6: A lot of my students who liked Gordon Korman also liked Patrick Carman books. Rick Riordan would be another good one with multiple high-quality series based on mythology, and Gregor the Overlander is another fantasy series that might interest a Ranger’s Apprentice fan!

    2. ObserverCN*

      Children 2 and 3 might like anything by Gary D. Schmidt (although “Orbiting Jupiter” is better for older middle school kids). I recommend “The Wednesday Wars” and “OK for Now.”

    3. Aealias*

      Grade 2: anything and everything by Robert Munsch. The Dragon Masters series is long, and appreciated in that age-range. It’s also been translated to French, but is probably above an immersion student’s reading level in grade 2 – in French it’s pretty popular with grade 3/4 readers. Elise Gravel writes French-language picture books that are utterly ridiculous and near-universally adored.

      Grade 5: Dogman, Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid are all popular with my slower/reluctant readers at that age. They mix comic-strip illustrations with traditional text in a way that seems to appeal to this age-group.

      Grade 6: A couple of my 6s quite enjoyed Ready Player One. Sigmund Brewer has been popular at that level recently. Seconding Rick Riordan, and recommending Scott Westerfeld (except the Uglies series, which squicks me out and is frankly too cliched for him, in my opinion.)

      1. Colette*

        Thanks for all of these suggestions! I really should have recorded what books I bought for the older siblings of some of these kids. :) But some of these are new, and I will check them out.

    4. Eden*

      Child 3: Amulet of Samarkand – alternate-history urban fantasy about demon summoning, british humor along with strong social messages especially in later books. Sea of Trolls – been a while but mostly I remember “norse-y adventures, nice”. Protector of the Small quartet – my absolute fave series from my fave author, swords n sorcery fantasy, read it in 6th grade for the first time and think it holds up as an adult.

  44. Internet Security 101 question*

    I’m very low tech, so am asking for advice.
    I’m staying with my sister and she has very weak internet, so I have been going to the library, but I’m worried about security. I have Norton 360/antivirus and a VPN on my laptop. I have been tethering it to my iPhone, which also has a VPN. Is this secure enough? I want to log into my credit card accounts, my brokerage accounts and my email account, which contains financial information on it.

    Would it be equally secure to log onto the library’s public wifi? Can I go to a coffee shop and either tether to my phone or use their wifi? Or is their a better, safer way for me to log into my financial accounts? My only other option would be to go to my cousin’s house, but she lives and hour and a half away, so I’m reluctant.

    1. tired librarian*

      Generally public wifi is always always a bad idea. Are you using your phone as a wifi hot-spot, and your phone is using cell data? That’s usually the most secure, so if that’s what you’re doing, keep it up, you’re definitely on the safer side.

      1. Internet Security 101 question*

        Yes, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not used to not having internet access at home, so I’m trying to figure out how much security is enough.

    2. CJM*

      Can you use your phone’s internet as a hotspot instead of your sister’s internet provider while you’re at her house? I’m new to using a hotspot and thought it sounded intimidating, but I tried it recently when our home internet acted up. It worked beautifully, and I think it’s pretty secure (password protected).

    3. PollyQ*

      The best way might be to turn off the wifi on your phone & connect to your accounts using the phone’s data plan.

    4. Observer*

      Your phone is going to be a much more secure option than the library or coffee shop wifi, which is annoying. So, for non-sensitive stuff use the library wifi, but for the bank, etc. use your phone.

      Consider getting 2factor authentication for any account that will allow it. Don’t bother with SMS (texting) based versions, because it’s not going to give you much in this context. Ideally, you would get something like a Yubikey or similar fob. But if that’s not a partical option, using an app based authenticator (Google Authenticator and Microsoft Autherticator are both free and work with a LOT of systems) is very useful.

    5. Gatomon*

      Don’t use public wifi unless you have the VPN active on your device. The VPN will encrypt all your traffic to/from your device to the VPN provider’s endpoint and protect your privacy from anyone else on that wifi. Otherwise, tether your computer to your iPhone and make sure it’s using its cellular connection, not any public wifi. You don’t need to have the VPN active on your phone and your PC at the same time, that’s probably causing a performance inpact more than providing any additional security.

      Source: network engineer for an internet provider. :)

      1. Internet Security 101 question*

        Thanks! Does it make any difference if the VPN is active on my phone or on my laptop?

        1. OneTwoThree*

          If your connection is a laptop to phone to the internet using your phone’s data plan, you want the VPN on the laptop turned on. I’d turn Wifi on your phone off to be sure you aren’t accidentally using it.

          If your connection is a laptop to free wifi, you want the VPN on your laptop turned on.

          If your connection is a phone to free wifi, you want the VPN on your phone turned on.

    6. Healthcare Worker*

      May I just say what a wonderful community this is? So many answers and so much information! Thanks to all.

  45. Lizy*

    Anyone from ThisIsStupidColdNorth places? We’re very seriously thinking about relocating to northern Wisconsin or the upper peninsula of Michigan. It’s super exciting and only slightly terrifying lol. It’ll be a big change- we’re in SW Missouri now! Anyone have any tips? Advice? Definitely don’t forget this important thing?

    1. HannahS*

      Consider how much you value being outside. Cold places vary; somewhere sunny, snowy, and dry is more amenable to outside activity than somewhere that’s more wet (overcast skies, ice and sleet instead of snow).

      When looking at property, remember that you’ll be responsible for clearing the walkway and driveway of snow and ice, and in some places also the sidewalk in front of your house. Consider your willingness/ability/ability to pay someone else to do it before buying somewhere with a long or steep driveway.

      Recall that commutes are WAY slower in the winter–if you don’t have a garage, add ten minutes each way to get the snow and ice off of your car, plus the slow-down from icy roads.

      Consider if the house is adequately insulated and energy efficient; it saves on your utilities bill which will likely be higher than you’re used to.

      1. Lizy*

        Yeah that’s part of the reason we’re wanting somewhere way up north. Winters where we are now are wet and unpleasant. There was a major ice storm about 15 years ago. We’d much rather a snowstorm than ice.

        I’m looking for a remote job, so obviously that will cut down on commute.

        I’m not so concerned about snow-clearing… we’re basically wanting something similar to Alaska homestead just… not in Alaska lol.

        We’re pretty self-sustaining already. Obviously being prepared for an electrical outage is important, but we’re honestly wanting to get away from relying “on the grid”.

        1. Canadian*

          If you’re planning to be partly or mostly off-grid, think carefully about your heat sources. Managing a wood-burning stove as your primary heat source is very romantic and also takes up WAY more time and energy than you think it will, and it’s very different to be without heat in -40 than at just freezing. Ditto electricity, especially if your work depends on having a strong grid at home. Solar isn’t a great option in places where it’s very dark all winter, for example.

          (Also it may be worth noting that in snowy northern climates usually it’s not snowstorms instead of ice storms, but rather in addition to. Snow in the middle of the winter, ice on the shoulder seasons.)

          My advice would be to spend a good chunk of winter time in the place you’re thinking of living. Maybe take an extended December holiday in a cabin? See how it grabs you. Also I would take it slow. Moving from a subtropical climate to Northern temperatures is an adjustment in and of itself, before you add “off-grid living” or “homesteading” into the mix.

          1. GermanGirl*

            Actually, Solar can’t be that bad in most of the US except Alaska, as it’s all further south than Germany and we’re super happy with our solar output here. Yes, it drops quite a bit in winter and our roof is too small to allow us to go off grid, but you can absolutely get a good portion of your electricity needs with solar even at 52°N.

            1. James*

              It’s not just how far north/south you are. Weather patterns play a huge role. Michigan abuts several of the Great Lakes, which have dramatic affects on weather patterns, including cloud cover. Then you have the tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico that influences things–not always rain, but it can have a real influence even that far north.

              I grew up in Northwest Ohio. When I was in college they were running experiments with solar power there. The idea was, if you could get a solar power system to work there it would work anywhere in the USA–there were fewer sunny days there than almost anywhere else. Michigan is going to be just as bad, again because of the lake effects.

              1. Canadian*

                Yes, exactly. Where I live is a comparable latitude, so it’s light from ~7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the dead of winter, but it’s rare to get much direct sunlight during those hours anytime between November and February. Not good for solar. It rains a lot in the summer also but when daylight is 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. you have a better chance of getting at least a little sunshine in.

    2. Opinions, I've Had a Few*

      Keep a kit in your car for snowy weather: blankets, water, granola bars, flares, etc. If you get caught in a snowstorm, you’ll be happy to have that stuff on hand.

    3. The teapots are on fire*

      I lived in Southeast Wisconsin for 17 years (not quite as cold as where you may be going). Having a garage is worth any other sacrifice you have to make, IMHO. That’s one end of your commute where you don’t have to clean off your car or defrost the door locks. Make sure you have good snow boots, dress in layers, and wear a scarf and a hat to keep your head and neck warm and keep the draft out of your coat. Don’t let the winter weather turn you into a hermit. Learn what weather is safe to drive in and get out and do things. There are plenty of guides about safety stuff to have in your car, and how not to lose a finger in your snow blower (I lived in the suburbs and shoveled instead of having a snow blower, but be sure to take breaks as shoveling snow can overtax you really fast and sneak up on you.)

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I’ve lived in North Dakota. Don’t buy a house with a flat roof. Spend the money on quality winter clothing. Get an engine block heater. All your kids’ Halloween costumes have to be made such that your kid can where a winter coat underneath. Things (like school!) rarely shut down in the north due to weather. Find a good place (large empty parking lot) to practice driving in ice and snow. You will have less daylight in the winter and more in the summer and quite possibly very vicious mosquitos. Gas furnace or fireplace is nice in case there’s a blizzard and the electricity goes out. Turn off your water if you go somewhere for a few days during the winter (in case the power goes out). Learn to like hockey? LoL, we didn’t.

    5. BlueWolf*

      My parents retired to northern Wisconsin a few years ago and live up there full time. If you’re going to be working from home, make sure to verify the internet availability before buying a place. I think it’s gotten better now, but when my parents first built their cabin in northern Wisconsin (a number of years ago) it was a big pain to get internet out to them. From what I can recall, the internet company wanted them to pay something like $100k to run a line out to them (although I don’t think they ended up paying that in the end). Their place is basically in the middle of nowhere. They like to do outdoor activities year-round (fishing, hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, etc.) and there are lots of opportunities up there for that. Winters are much longer and colder up there, so it helps if you enjoy outdoor activities in all seasons. As others have said, have an emergency kit in your vehicle because if something happens it may take a while for someone to come help you. Make sure you wear lots of layers in winter, especially for outdoor activities. Invest in good quality winter clothing. I grew up in Minnesota and still appreciate a nice pair of warm wool socks, even though I don’t really need them in our milder winters in the Mid-Atlantic. A good chainsaw comes in handy too. My parents have a long driveway and live in the woods so they’ve had to clear trees from their driveway on a few occasions.

    6. Redhairedrunner*

      If you have a wood burning stove you will need to have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. You will also want a way to keep an eye on the stove pipe temperature, the build up inside can catch on fire and that is bad. Maintaining a wood stove fire that burns cleanly is a bit of an art but is crucial if you are using your stove daily. Also always keep your firewood super dry and make sure the wood isn’t too fresh or else it won’t burn well.

    7. Cormorannt*

      I moved from Atlanta to Northern Illinois fifteen years ago. Winters are usually just normal-cold but we do get hit by the polar vortex (cold air sweeping down from the Canadian Rockies) which can bring them temp down to -30 or lower. My advice: Don’t invest in a warm coat that doesn’t have a hood. A hood is clutch. It keeps your head and neck warm and keeps cold air (or snow) from going down your back. A hat is great when it’s cold. A hat with a hood pulled up over it is a lifesaver when it’s stupid cold. Make sure your jacket with a hood has enough room for wearing layers underneath. Make sure it covers your butt so you don’t literally freeze your butt off. Buy snow boots. They are warm and have better traction in cold weather. Get them half a size larger than usual so you can wear thick socks. Get nice, tall boots so the snow doesn’t come up over the tops and get down inside them. Lastly, my favorite trick for warm hands – buy thin gloves you can wear under thicker mittens. You can pull the mittens off if you need more dexterity without freezing your fingers off.

      1. Cj*

        I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life, and and am seconding all of the above recommendations regarding clothing.

    8. Texan In Exile*

      We go to Madeline Island (part of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior) every summer, which requires driving through northern WI. We have spent time in Ashland and Bayfield in the summer and the fall.

      Practical considerations for N WI:
      * There are not a lot of places to buy stuff. That is, not a lot of grocery stores or Target, etc. We take our groceries with us (from Milwaukee) when we go.
      * How people vote: Ashland county went for Biden, I think, but we saw a lot of Trump signs this summer between Abbotsford and Ashland. Yes. Even now. The only place we saw masked people (other than us) was at the Co-Op in Ashland. It seems that most of N WI – which has among the lowest vax rates in the state – is determined to be idiots about covid.
      * I get the impression from the people who own the cottage we rent that property taxes are high. But that may just be for Madeline Island.
      * Last spring, Bayfield and Ashland were asking tourists to stay away because their hospital capacity was limited.

      * It’s gorgeous in the summer.
      * Lake Superior. That is all.
      * The fish is amazing.
      * Did I mention Lake Superior?
      * Loons.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Also – Houghton, which I think counts as the UP, is a lovely college town. I think it would have all the advantages of city living with all the disadvantages of awful winters. :)

    9. OyHiOh*

      I have family in northern WI. I also have family in MO, funny enough. Although they’re both rural areas, there are distinct differences in way of life so be prepared for some culture shock.

      I saw elsewhere in this thread that you said you were expecting to work remote/from home: Budget for internet accordingly. Some of my family members do not have internet at home because it’s cheaper to use their phone data than to pay for limited speed on a broadband connection. Other family members are paying prices that would make big city AAM faint to get somewhere close to the miniums necessary to work from home and/or have kids doing school from home.

      If you have children, or hope to in the future, school is another issue to plan for ahead of time. I’m not familiar with how school districts are organized in MO, however, WI went through an intensive round of school consolidation in the mid-90’s. At this point, it’s not uncommon for a single high school to serve a third to half the county in rural counties. I personally do not think this is bad for philosophical reasons, but this may factor into decisions about school transportation.

      If you have dogs, invest in hunter orange vests for fall and put them on every time the dog goes outside. It is shockingly common for leashed dogs, or dogs safely contained in their yards, to get shot by idiot hunters during deer season.

      You’ve got good advice about in the thread about clothing, garages, flat roofs, etc!!

    10. NorwegianTree*

      Everything wool. Wooltights under your pants, wool socks/mittens/scarf/hat, wool or down parka/jacket/….

  46. MechanicalPencil*

    Kitten naming help!

    A few weeks ago I posted about my tiny foster kitten. She ended up on antibiotics for a URI, which helped stimulate her appetite more. But she’s still taken several weeks to gain that final pound.

    All that to say. I have foster failed. However, the name the shelter provided her does not really fit me or come to mind easily (Merida, after the Disney princess). I’m hoping for some help.

    I like pet names I can shorten. For example, Lucille to Lucy, etc. I also currently have two male dogs. I’ve always been a dog person, and she’s converted me. There’s a slight naming convention with my pups of grammar/punctuation in jokes or something with a literary bent.

    Physically, the kitten is quite small and an apricot/red tabby with kind of olive eyes. For her personality, she’s a bit spicy, my shadow and/or parrot, and rather fearless and adventurous. I’m just drawing a blank on a name for her.

    I’ll do my best to respond to replies. I appreciate any and all suggestions. I just can’t quite bring myself to call her Merida — it doesn’t come to mind super easily even though it kinda does work for her.

    1. Florida Woman*

      I would name her “Anne with an E”, call her Annie, and explain to confused friends that the name has nothing at all to do with the little orphan of song. It’s a totally different orphan that captures people’s hearts!

    2. Lucy Mom*

      Sounds like our cat, both in personality and in story. Shelter cat, and the name they gave her didn’t fit at all. Spent weeks looking for a name, couldn’t find one that fit. But since she was kinda mischievous and devilish (along with sweet), a friend said, “How about Lucy? Short for Lucifer?” :-)

    3. Pam Adams*

      There’s a slight naming convention with my pups of grammar/punctuation in jokes or something with a literary bent.

      What would you name her if she was a dog? Perhaps use that naming convention. (I now want to name an animal Semi-colon!)

    4. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      You mentioned her eye colour – olives do come in a range of colours and sizes and spiciness – I think the name Olive would be great!

      1. It's Quarantime!*

        I thought of Olive too. And it can be literary as a reference to Oliver. An adorable orphan plucked from the slums and lifted to a loving home/ family. (Please, sir, I want some more!) Ollie for short?

    5. The Dogman*




      I name my cats after old Anglo Saxon names, so my last one was Aelthwinna, my current is Braethwinna, my next will be Ceolflaed or Cwenae…

      You said she is brave? Bemia means “Battle Maiden”, or Ardith “One fighting a good war” or Coenburga “A woman who is strong like a fortress”

      Perhaps a “Fire” based name? Synne means “A gift of the Sun”

      Or Cwen, it means “a born queen”

      Egnerthe “a shining unique sword”, or Egbertina “a shining sword that can kill”

      There are loads of fun names with meanings in the Anglo Saxon tradition, perhaps search out some Anglo Saxon names sites for more options?

      Good luck, nice job on failing to foster and keeping her too!;)

    6. Sooda Nym*

      Paprika? Could shorten to Rika or Riki or Pika or Piki (since I don’t think Papi works…)

      Or….it’s a stretch, but how about Wendy Darling? I believe in the book she met Peter Pan when she sewed his shadow back on (maybe that was the movie). Your comment about a shadow made me think of it, and I kind of like the idea of a cat whose full name is “Wendy Darling” but just gets called Wendy.

    7. heckofabecca*

      I mean, I love the name Apricot! Apry is a short form.

      I got a kitten from a shelter in March named Orchid—eugh!—and renamed her Hero Israel. It’s fun to rename cats as it suits them!! And there’s no rush. A friend didn’t rename her cat the final time until 2 years in!

    8. GoryDetails*

      Another spice-name: Cayenne… “Cay” for short?

      Or for a very different fiery-girl, maybe “Azula”, from the Last Airbender series; she was not a nice person, but a high-energy, self-centered, take-no-prisoners character does sound rather like a cat {wry grin}.

    9. Pikachu*

      I’m having Outlander withdrawals, so I have to recommend Brianna, the name of the red-headed daughter of Claire and Jamie Fraser!

  47. HannahS*

    Consider how much you value being outside. Cold places vary; somewhere sunny, snowy, and dry is more amenable to outside activity than somewhere that’s more wet (overcast skies, ice and sleet instead of snow).

    When looking at property, remember that you’ll be responsible for clearing the walkway and driveway of snow and ice, and in some places also the sidewalk in front of your house. Consider your willingness/ability/ability to pay someone else to do it before buying somewhere with a long or steep driveway.

    Recall that commutes are WAY slower in the winter–if you don’t have a garage, add ten minutes each way to get the snow and ice off of your car, plus the slow-down from icy roads.

    Consider if the house is adequately insulated and energy efficient; it saves on your utilities bill which will likely be higher than you’re used to.

    Research what to do in a power outage in the winter, so that you aren’t caught by surprise.

  48. raven*

    oh gosh, alison’s website has a new look! I had been wondering how long she was going to keep the old one lol. but still, this is quite a change!

    1. Fionnulla*

      Yeah, it’s a massive change. Also things are hopefully still being adjusted as on my iPad the layout is not great – boxes are overlapping and the sidebar is MASSIVE! I hope this is going to be tweaked or it’s going to be a real pain.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Interesting, we didn’t have that show up in any testing. Can you email me a screenshot of what you’re seeing with info about what device and browser you’re using? (alison@askamanager.org) Thank you!

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I’m having a similar issue with the side bars, they take up so much space that the last nested comment is basically one word per line. I’m using an older iPod, so maybe it’s an Apple thing?

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      I’m afraid I don’t like the new format. It’s more difficult to read on my phone, which is where I mostly access AAM.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We’re still tweaking and it’s possible it’s rendering wrong on your phone. Can you email me a screenshot of what you’re seeing, with info about what device and browser you’re using? (alison@askamanager.org) Thank you!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Not really a fan either. The sidebars make it look messy, and threading gets hard-to-read narrow pretty quick on mobile, like narrow enough to only allow 2-3 words a line so the comment is 3 words wide and 3 pages long.

        1. Sorrischian*

          I’m not having any sidebar issues (using firefox for android), but the indenting for replies does seem a lot wider than it needs to be, which definitely exacerbates the weird squeezing Red Reader is talking about.

          I will say, I *love* that the update has gotten rid of the problem I always had before on mobile of accidentally hitting the reply button while just trying to scroll.